The Civil Guard located and rescued a Spanish minor who disappeared earlier this month and was living in the city of Verviers (Belgium, 55,000 inhabitants) in the home of a 34-year-old jihadist who had captured her and indoctrinated her with terrorist material and that he allegedly intended to send them to a conflict zone, according to a note released this morning by the armed institute, which did not provide details of the minors’ usual whereabouts or age. The man was arrested.
The young woman had left the family home for Belgium on July 2 “accompanied by people belonging to a suspected terrorist recruitment structure based in that country,” according to investigations by the Civil Guard’s information service in the fight against jihadist radicalization. The family did not know the fate of the minor.
The trip allegedly culminated in a first phase of indoctrination, during which the man, who is a Belgian national, “constantly” sent terrorist-type propaganda material to the minor in order to radicalize her.
After the escape was over, the Civil Guard, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National High Court’s Central Tribunal for Minors attempted to locate the minor “before there was any possibility of her transfer to a scene of terrorist action,” the note said. The investigators from the armed institute, together with the Belgian federal police, managed to locate the young woman’s whereabouts.
On July 15, the man was arrested in the Belgian city of Verviers and the Spanish minor, subject to a European and international arrest warrant issued by the Central Court for Minors of the National Supreme Court, was immediately released.
What affects most is what happens next. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything.
Preventing minors from being recruited by jihadism and preventing them from being taken to conflict zones has been one of the core tasks of the anti-terrorist services in recent years. In fact, they are still scattered across refugee camps, mainly in Syria, and many women who were captured by these networks when they were minors and who now also have children for submitting to Islamist radicals are still awaiting repatriation.
France, for example, earlier this month repatriated 35 French nationals and 16 women from camps in north-eastern Syria where relatives of jihadists with ties to the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) are being held. The Collective of United Families criticizes that Paris has only repatriated 126 minors since 2016. According to their calculations, 97 European women and children were repatriated in 2021. Only seven of them were French, all of them minors. From January 1 to July 4, other European countries had repatriated 65 children and 27 women, none of them French.
Spain, with 17 children and three women (plus one of Moroccan origin but with children of a Spanish father) housed in the camps in north-eastern Syria, has not carried out repatriations.