Spain arrests two suspected jihadists in North Africa territory

Police arrested two suspected jihadists Tuesday in Spain's north African territory of Ceuta, accusing them of belonging to a group "prepared" to launch attacks in Europe, the government said.

The two are suspected of following instructions issued online by the leader of the violent extremist group calling itself Islamic State, also known as Daesh, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

"Police at dawn this morning carried out an anti-terrorist operation which led to the detention in Ceuta of two suspected jihadists," the interior ministry said in a statement.

The two were linked to four other arrests in Ceuta on January 24, when officers detained two pairs of brothers who, like those detained Tuesday, were Spaniards "of Moroccan origin".

"The group that has been broken up was fully operative and composed of individuals who had been radicalised and mentally prepared to carry out possible attacks in our country and neighbouring countries," the ministry said.

"They were physically and mentally prepared for jihad" and were thought to have "acted following directives issued by the leader of the jihadist terrorist organisation Daesh" via online social networks and web pages. In the January raids, police seized an automatic pistol, machetes and military uniforms.

Tuesday's statement said the two latest suspects were thought to be members of the same cell as the other four. A coastal city fenced off from northern Morocco, Ceuta has one of Europe's only two land borders with Africa, along with another Spanish territory, Melilla, to the east.

Spain's government has announced raids on a series of suspected Islamist cells over recent months, most of them in Ceuta and Melilla. On Saturday, police in Barcelona arrested a Moroccan woman who they said had been sent back to Spain by Turkish authorities after being caught trying to reach Syria with her three-year-old son.

The woman, identified by authorities as Semira Yerou, 32, is suspected of heading to join the Islamic State movement and of recruiting other women to join the group.

A judge in Madrid remanded her in custody on Tuesday on charges of belonging to a terrorist group, according to a written ruling. Spanish authorities say about 100 people from Spain are suspected of having joined jihadist fighters in Iraq and Syria and fear they may return to launch attacks.

Hundreds more such radicals from France, Britain and Germany are also thought to have travelled to those countries to fight.