On June 10, 2008, the National Police in Spain arrested 8 people as part of the ongoing investigation against terrorism called Operación Submarino (Operation Submarine or Underwater Operation). All men are from Algerian descent, and they were arrested on charges of suspicious activities with links to Jihadist cells. Investigations led by the Ministry of the Interior revealed that the men were responsible for recruiting and indoctrinating members, as well as collecting, financing, and giving logistical support to Islamic terrorist organizations that resembled the structure of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Two of the arrests took place in Barcelona, in Catalonia. The men are Sid Ali Taukoucht, born on August 19, 1968 in Pallat, Algeria, and Abdelghani Himmouri, born on Jun 27, 1979 in Becha, Algeria. The wife of Taukoucht was also arrested at first, but was released shortly after. She assured that she was sleeping when the agents burst into their home, and also pleaded that her husband had nothing to do with the activities of which he was accused. Taukoucht and Himmouri were presumed to be active in El Raval area. The arrests, which took place at two in the morning, caused a great upheaval in the area, which had already been uneasy since the attempted attack on the metro by a group of Pakistani’s and Indian’s in January. The investigators however, ruled out that the Algerians had anything to do with the previous group. Five were arrested in Castellón, Valencia. Their names are Mohamed Bouacha, born on March 16, 1972 in El Harrach, Algeria, Mohamed Souici, born on November 14, 1971 in Bouzereah, Algeria, Youced Haddallah, born on March 9, 1981 in Algiers, Algeria, Mourad Ait Kaid, born on April 16, 1972 in Kouba, Algeria, and Abdennour Chetta, born on September 30, 1972 in Kouba, Algeria. Mustapha Yousfi, born on March 14, 1972 in Oran, Algeria, was arrested in Pamplona, Valencia. When police searched the residences where they practiced, they found 7,000 euro in cash. They also found statements of money shipments to Algeria, other bank statements, numerous CDs and videotapes, phonecards, and diverse documentation.
The Grupo Salafista para la Predicación y el Combate (Salafist Group for Preching and Combat - GSPC) is an international terrorist organization that was created in 1997 in Algeria. (It had originally split from the Grupo Islámico Armado (Armed Islamic Group) led by Hassan Hattab and Ahmed Zarabib, and whose spiritual leaders were the Jordanians Abu Qutada and Abu Al Haitan). It is assumed that the men belong to the Salafist group because of their Algerian roots. To support this theory, the Islamic groups with the “inspiración (inspiration) salafista" were all unified in 2007 under the direction of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is where the cell sent money to. The group also has links with the Islamic Jihad. Some consider GSPC one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in Europe. One of their most atrocious actions included the ambush of the Algerian army on January 3, 2003, in the region of Teniet El Abed, where 43 military personnel were killed and 19 more injured. Also, in the same year, the group kidnapped 23 Europeans, and then in July 2005 they led an attack that killed 17 Mauritanians, and an attack in Algeria on April 11, 2007 that killed 33 people.
The investigation has been directed by the Juzgado Central de Instrucción Número 5 de la Audiencia Nacional (Central Court of Instruction Number 5 of the National Audience) and carried out by the Comisaría General de Información del Cuerpo Nacional de Policía (General Precinct of Information of the National Police.) The investigations are also in collaboration with the regional police of Barcelona, Castellon, and Pamplona. The police are maintaining contact with other foreign police services to determine the implication of those arrested in the realm of international terrorism, and to verify the members of the cell in relation to some of the plots or operations under their magnifier as well.
The cell worked to finance the terrorist headquarters in the Maghreb through banks. The police declined to release the numbers of the total amount of money sent by the cell to al-Qaeda. However, the fruits of the investigation were released to other information services, including detailed events of what took place during specific months. The cell also exercised propaganda in religious environments and cultural centers to recruit members. As a final phase, the men would put the most fervent followers on a path to become Mujahideen, and would facilitate their transportation and landing in Iraq. Diverse experts rejected the claim that the cell’s activities were developed in a mosque in Barcelona for two reasons. The first is that the mosques were Pakistani, and the Algerians and Pakistanis that reside in Catalonia have very little to do with each other. Experts also said that authorities and citizens have been more alert than ever to the possible infiltration of faithful radicals, so the mosques would have been under a watch. Legal reprimands for those arrested will be based on their degree of participation within the Islamist cells. However, the Ministry of the Interior reported that the men have all maintained direct contact with various parts of the terrorist organizations, with a myriad of objectives. After the investigation is over, the fate of the men will be at the disposal of Judge Baltazar Garzon. Although the General Precinct has dismantled this Jihadist cell, the investigation will continue due to suspicions of another nucleus with scores of other recruiters.