Spain

Overview:  Spain continued to respond effectively to the global terrorism threat in border and transportation security, countering terrorist financing, and countering violent extremism through bilateral and multilateral cooperation.  The country remained on “high” national alert for terrorism throughout 2022, for the eighth year in a row.  Spanish authorities continued to arrest individuals suspected of planning terror attacks, facilitating terrorist financing, and engaging in ISIS- and al-Qa’ida-related recruitment and radicalization, both online and in these individuals’ communities.  During the year, Spanish CT cooperation with the United States was excellent.

Spain hosted the May 10-11 UN High-Level International Conference on Human Rights, Civil Society, and Counterterrorism, which was preceded by a May 9 civil society workshop.  Spain also served as co-chair of the Victims of Terrorism Group of Friends and hosted the May 23-25 Hedayah CVE research conference.  Throughout 2022, Spain contributed to counterterrorism and security by deploying about 150 personnel to Iraq and some 600 personnel to the Sahel and the Horn of Africa in military and police training missions.  Spain continued to exercise leadership in regional and global CT fora.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  On or around November 30, packages containing explosive devices were delivered to the Ukrainian and U.S. embassies in Spain, and to other sites, including the office of the Spanish presidency.  One injury resulted at the Ukrainian embassy.  Spanish National Police (SNP) tracked the devices to a Spanish national and held him in preventive custody for terrorism as they completed their investigation.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  There have been no changes since 2020.

Law Enforcement:  During the year, the Spanish government continued to implement its National Strategy Against Terrorism.  The Ministry of Interior, through its Intelligence Center for Counterterrorism and Organized Crime (or CITCO) — and with contributions from the Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Justice — developed the strategy to align with the four pillars of CT strategies of the EU and the United Nations:  prevent, protect, pursue, and respond.  The strategy includes measures to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against soft targets such as hotels, stadia, tourist resorts, and cultural sites, in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 2341 on protecting critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks.

Spanish authorities reported they had undertaken 35 counterterrorist operations and detained 56 suspects on terrorism-related charges during the year.

Significant law enforcement actions related to CT included these three:

  • On February 24, SNP arrested five Pakistani nationals allegedly linked to a Pakistani violent extremist movement and charged them with collaboration with a terrorist organization, incitement, and glorification of terrorism.
  • On June 7, as part of a large international counterterrorism operation, SNP arrested six Spanish nationals and charged them with collaboration with a Pakistani violent extremist movement and incitement to murder.
  • On August 3, SNP arrested two men for allegedly traveling to Syria for the purpose of receiving terrorist training from al-Qa’ida.

Border Security:  On August 21, Spain announced it will implement the European Travel Information and Authorization System in 2023 to improve border security.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Spain is a member of FATF, and its FIU, the Executive Service of the Commission for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Offenses (or SEPBLAC), is a member of the Egmont Group.  On February 1, SNP arrested three Spanish nationals and charged them with creating a financial network in support of ISIS in Libya.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism:  On February 21, the Ministry of Interior approved a refocused Plan for the Prevention, Protection, and Response to Terrorism, a component of Spain’s National Strategy Against Terrorism.  This plan directly addresses countering violent extremism by reinforcing regional police cooperation to fight and prevent radicalization to violence, Islamist terrorism, and lone-actor attacks.  The new plan specifically addresses “jihadist terrorists,” including returning foreign fighters affiliated with ISIS and al-Qa’ida.  The plan also identifies and supports deradicalization from violence programs for Spanish prisons.

International and Regional Cooperation

Throughout 2022, Spain contributed troops to EU training missions in Mali, the Central African Republic, and Somalia, seeking to support stability and address security threats — including terrorism in host nations.  Spain’s Guardia Civil led the EU’s Groupes d’Action Rapides-Surveillance et Intervention (or GAR-SI) Sahel mission to build rapid response units within the Sahel’s gendarme and police forces, which was designed to improve stability and reduce domestic terror.  Spain cooperated with regional partners on CT investigations and arrests.

During May 23-25, Spain hosted the Hedayah Seventh Annual International CVE Research Conference in Granada.  On June 21 the Spanish government announced an agreement with the United Nations to host the UN Office of Counterterrorism in Madrid.  On October 27, Deputy Minister of Interior Rafael Perez announced that counterterrorism is among Spain’s priorities for the 2023 Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union.  Throughout 2022, Spain contributed troops to EU training missions in Mali, the Central African Republic, and Somalia, seeking to support stability and address security threats including terrorism in host nations.

During the year, Spain’s Guardia Civil led the EU’s GAR-SI Sahel mission to build rapid response units within the Sahel’s gendarme and police forces which are designed to improve stability and reduce domestic terror.

Spain is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and supports counterterrorism initiatives at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the OSCE. The country is a donor nation to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). Spain continues to support the 5+5 Defense Initiative bringing together European (France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain) and North African (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia) countries to build capacity on CT maritime and aviation security and disaster management.  The Spanish cities of Fuenlabrada and Málaga are both members of the Strong Cities Network.  Spain is a donor nation to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund.  The country is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and supports counterterrorism initiatives at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the OSCE.

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