A pattern of characteristics emerges in regard to persons in some way suspected of involvement in Jihadist terrorism in Spain. They are predominantly men, born between 1966 and 1975, aged between 26 and 40 when arrested, basically North African immigrants and mostly without residence permits. They tend to settle in Madrid or Barcelona and other coastal locations. Despite some notable exceptions, they are generally individuals with low levels of education and generally low standards of professional skills.
This sociological profile provides certain guidelines for the prevention and containment of international terrorism in Spain, in addition to intergovernmental initiatives developed inside and outside Europe. First, material and human resources available for policing must be provided urgently, although not exclusively, for certain niches in the social structure in certain areas of Spain. It is also necessary to continue to strengthen antiterrorist cooperation with a series of Arab or Islamic countries, as is the case with Western nations who hold significant operating intelligence.
Secondly, since the Jihadists in Spain present themselves as Muslims and exercise proselytism, it is absolutely vital to promote further dialogue between government authorities and leaders of Islamic communities, who in turn must continue to be committed to delegitimising the terrorism which is practiced in the name of Islam. Just as it is important to develop effective social integration programmes which contribute to satisfying the expectations of North African immigrants with low education levels and scant professional qualifications, to lay the foundations for making their time in Spain more gratifying at a personal level, and to decrease the likelihood of their feeling individually frustrated and collectively slighted, and therefore turning to excluding Islamic subcultures and Jihadist movements.
Finally, the fact that most persons imprisoned in Spain for links with Jihadist terrorism come from North Africa and the Middle East suggests we define and coordinate public diplomacy that is focused, interministerial in dimension and includes the relevant players from civilian society. This public diplomacy must be part of a national strategy on international terrorism and be complementary to other collective programmes to which the Spanish government must either contribute or promote. Its purpose would be to convey not only to the political classes but also to public opinion in the Arab and Islamic world the meaning of the measures implemented to prevent this kind of terrorism in Spain, as well as less well-known or widespread aspects of Spanish immigration policy, religious matters, international cooperation and foreign intervention.
A public policy of this kind has nothing to do with appeasement towards Jihadists, but is action aimed at offsetting processes of nurturing hate and terrorist recruitment, such as those observed in Spain among Arab or Central Asian minorities in which global Jihadists see potential for mobilising militants. This is, let us face it, of undeniable importance when the al-Qaeda ideologues, such as Ayman al Zawahiri himself, insist again and again that followers of Islam are systematically offended and discriminated against in Western countries such as Spain simply because of their religion. This is how they try to make their Jihadist propaganda into a reference framework for those Muslims who perhaps feel slighted, frustrated or alienated, and how they turn a few of them to terrorism