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Spanish police make arrests over suspected 'Islamic State' terror attack in Madrid

Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said that the arrests were an important step against terrorism. Madrid has been on a high 'level 4' terror alert since the end of June.

Spanish authorities arrested three men Tuesday morning in Madrid. They were accused of being part of a group linked to the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) terror organization and "ready to attack Madrid," the country's Interior Ministry said.

The three men are alleged to belong to a group tied to IS. They are Moroccan nationals between the ages of 26 and 29 and reside in Madrid.

The arrests took place in the Madrid neighborhoods of Vallecas and La Canada Real, part of the largest shanty town in Europe. It includes an area controlled by drug gangs, who sell to users from around the Spanish capital.

According to the Interior Ministry, the operation "was immediately executed due to the group’s unpredictable reactions, which presented maximum risk along with a strong will to act through terrorist attacks."

Jorge Fernández Díaz, Spain's Interior Minister said the action had prevented attacks. "The members of this group were ready to commit all sorts of violent acts such as those against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, whether using a knife to attack a person or going as far as using an AK-47," he added.

The Minister highlighted a total of 171 arrests of jihadist terrorists so far in Spain and said a high terror-alert status would remain in the country.

The Spanish capital has been a target for terrorism in the past. In March 2004, a series of bombs exploded inside commuter trains, killing 191 people and injuring 1,800 more.

ETA, an armed separatist group from the Basque Country, has been held responsible for killing more than 800 people and continued to be a dangerous threat until it declared a permanent ceasefire back in 2011.

hf/jm (AFP, EFE)