The authorities in Spain have dismantled a secret network belonging to the Islamic State spanning across 17 prisons. According to the police sources, ISIS operatives had formed a ‘prison front’ to recruit and indoctrinate potential jihadists inside the country’s prison system.

Police identified some 25 inmates suspected of running the ring, many of whom are due to be released in near future. “The very existence of the group is viewed as a potential security risk, even more so given the upcoming release of several of the inmates who were targeted by the investigation,” a spokesperson for the Spain’s Interior Ministry said.

Spain has long been on the cross-hairs of Islamic terrorism. The 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people remains Europe’s deadliest Islamist terror attack to date. In August 2017, an ISIS-inspired attack killed 13 people, and left more than hundred injured. In recent months, Spain has emerged as the main entry point for illegal immigrants coming from Muslim-majority North Africa—raising the threat level even further.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported the uncovering of the ISIS prison network:

“Although the investigation began by focusing on an inmate in a particular prison, to date the illegal activity of the group extended to 17 prisons, which account for 55 percent of jails that house prisoners linked to jihadist terrorism,” the [Spain’s Interior] ministry said.

The network attempted to radicalize other inmates in order to establish a “prison front.” A source at the interior ministry told AFP news agency that although there was no “concrete plan” to carry out an attack, the ring had created a “belligerent state of mind towards prison staff.”

The ring also attempted to bypass mechanisms aimed at monitoring and preventing radicalization within Spain’s prison system.

“The very existence of the group is viewed as a potential security risk, even more so given the upcoming release of several of the inmates who were targeted by the investigation,” the ministry said.

The prison network once again highlights the unholy nexus between the organized crime and jihad terrorism. A 2016 study conducted by King’s College London found that majority of European jihadis fighting for the Islamic State had criminal records. Anis Amri, the ISIS terrorist responsible for the 2016 Berlin Christmas market attack and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the November 2015 Paris attack, both had long drug related criminal records.

Prison authorities in Germany, France and the UK are witnessing similar surge in Islamist activities. Muslim migrants are often over-represented in the prison population across Europe, making it ideal for Islamist recruitment. In France, for example, Muslims constitute around 60 percent of the country’s prison population.

Instead of stemming illegal immigration from Muslim-majority North Africa, Spain’s socialist government is firmly-backing EU’s open door migrant policy. After Italy’s new anti-establishment government started clamping down on people traffickers by closing its shores to NGO boats carrying migrants, Spanish government welcomed them on its ports. As Reuters noted in June, “Italy’s new government, asserting its anti-immigrant credentials, refused to let [NGO boats] dock. Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took office two weeks ago, took the opportunity to show a more liberal stance.”

With unregulated immigration from Arab and Muslim majority countries, Islamist mobilization in Spain’s streets and prisons will continue unabated. Without stemming illegal migrant flow, sporadic successes by the law enforcement will not be enough to the contain the rising tide of Islamic radicalization in Europe.

Video: Douglas Murray on mass migration into Europe

[Cover image via YouTube]