Country Report on Terrorism 2016 - Chapter 2 - Spain

Overview: Spain partnered actively with the United States to disrupt transnational terrorism in 2016. Spanish authorities maintained robust information sharing with U.S. counterparts on terrorist threats and worked closely with regional partners, including Morocco and Algeria, to dismantle foreign terrorist fighter recruitment and facilitation networks. Spain also made initial progress implementing a domestic program to counter violent extremism.

Spain has been a significant contributor to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS since its inception. Spain has a military-training mission in Iraq, co-located with the United States at Bismayah, near Baghdad, with more than 300 Spanish personnel deployed during 2016. In December, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved the deployment of 150 additional military and police personnel to support the Coalition’s training efforts.

The domestic terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) has not launched any attacks since it announced a “definitive cessation of armed activity” in October 2011. Although ETA had not formally disbanded or given up its weapons arsenal, its coherence was further eroded this year by the arrest of members of its vestigial leadership, including the November arrest of accused leader Mikel Irastorza in France.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Spain has a mature legal framework for counterterrorism as a result of its long fight against the domestic terrorist group ETA. The Spanish Criminal Code specifically punishes any act of collaboration with the activities or purposes of a terrorist organization. Spain revised its penal code in 2015, empowering law enforcement agencies to prosecute individuals who glorify terrorism on social media, train remotely, operate without clear affiliation, or travel in support of non-state actors.

Spain’s counterterrorism capabilities, coordinated by the national Intelligence Center for Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO), have proven effective. The National Police and Civil Guard share responsibility for counterterrorism. Spain continued to implement its cybersecurity strategy to safeguard its critical information systems under the direction of the Cyber Defense Committee, charged with coordinating cybersecurity across government agencies.

Spain continued to focus on improved security and the detection of false documents at its borders. Spain participates in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Immigration Advisory Program, which maintains staff at Madrid-Barajas International Airport, and allows for coordination between Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, Embassy Madrid Consular staff, airline security personnel, and police regarding high risk passengers traveling to the United States. Spain continued to use a network of radar stations, known as the Integrated External Surveillance System, along its maritime borders.

Spanish authorities arrested 177 suspected terrorists between June 2015, when the national terrorism alert was raised to “4” (high) on a five-point scale, and December 2016. Arrests have occurred across Spain, from Madrid and Barcelona to the North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and the Balearic islands of Ibiza and Mallorca. Charges against these suspects have included glorification of terrorism and promulgation of ISIS propaganda; recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and facilitating travel to conflict zones; and obtaining or delivering training to commit terror attacks. According to Spanish authorities, 204 individuals have traveled from Spain to Iraq and Syria as foreign terrorist fighters as of December. This includes both Spanish nationals and foreign nationals with links to Spain. Several dozen are believed to be deceased, and most of Spain’s returned foreign terrorist fighters (roughly 25) remained in prison.

In March, Spanish authorities seized approximately 20,000 military uniforms that reportedly were being shipped from Spanish ports in Valencia and Algeciras to affiliates of ISIS or al‑Nusrah Front (al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria) in Syria and Iraq. Ministry of Interior officials said they had uncovered a “very active and effective business network” seeking to provide military supplies to the terrorist organizations. The uniforms were declared as “secondhand clothes” to pass through customs inspections.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Spain is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has observer or cooperating status in the following FATF-style regional bodies: the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. Its financial intelligence unit, the Executive Service for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Infractions (SEPBLAC), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The Director and CEO of SEPBLAC assumed the position of FATF president on July 1, 2016.

In 2016, Spain continued to demonstrate leadership in the area of anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT). Spain effectively investigates and prosecutes terrorist financing and uses criminal forfeiture provisions to freeze terrorist assets, but has had more limited success in implementing and using UN terrorism‑related targeted financial sanctions.

Spain enacted its current law on Preventing Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism in 2010. The related regulations greatly enhance authorities' capacity to counter terrorist financing by placing greater requirements, with stiffer penalties for non-compliance, on financial institutions and other businesses, and by strengthening monitoring and oversight. The government has diligently implemented relevant UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) and has the legal authority to impose autonomous designations.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: Spain has begun to implement the National Counter Radicalization Plan announced in 2015. CITCO is the lead agency for implementing the plan. The southern city of Málaga, which joined the Strong Cities Network in May, has served as a pilot for countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives, including interdisciplinary intervention in potential youth radicalization cases and networking with interfaith non‑governmental organizations to improve communication between government and vulnerable communities. A national counter-radicalization hotline has received more than 900 communications deemed “of interest” by Spanish law enforcement since December 2015. Andalusia, Catalonia, and Madrid accounted for nearly half of these communications. Spanish authorities are seeking European Union and national funding to continue and expand their CVE efforts.

International and Regional Cooperation: Since 2004, Spain has been part of the informal working group on violent Islamist extremism known as the 5 + 5. The group brings together defense leaders from five European countries (France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain) and five Maghreb countries (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia). Its mission is to exchange information and discuss the operational implications of the threat from violent Islamist extremists in the European theater, including that posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters. In October, Spain participated in a meeting of the 5 + 5 Chiefs of Staff in Algiers to strengthen regional military cooperation against terrorism.

Spain is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and is also a member of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. During its presidency of the UN Security Council in December, Spain sponsored UNSCR 2322 to improve judicial cooperation to fight terrorism, and also worked to improve the implementation of UNSCR 1540, a cornerstone multilateral tool in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups and other non‑state actors. In September, Spanish authorities conducted a joint operation with Belgian and German law enforcement to dismantle an international ISIS recruitment network. The European Counterterrorism Center, established in January, is led by a senior Civil Guard official, Manuel Navarrete Paniguata.