Reportage Alejandro Requeijo
Format EC Design
Lhe scene of the reunion took place in a hall of Terminal 1 in Barajas. A group of 14 people anxiously awaited the arrival of the Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul. Inside it was a young man who had left behind ten years of confinement in Syrian prisons for terrorism. When he got off the plane, Humman was finally able to hug his brothers, his father, Fares, and his uncle Riay Tatary, the historic representative to the State of the Muslim community in Spain. It was February 7, 2018, and the Kutayni clan celebrated that they were united again.
Humman’s biography summarizes the history of his lineage. This newspaper will publish in the coming days a series of reports on the Kutayni, who have spent several generations with one foot in Madrid and the other in Syria, where they come from. Its visible face shows a deeply rooted family with several of its members born in Spain, studies in good universities, relevant positions in religious institutions and a well-off situation thanks to a conglomerate of companies. The hidden side hides 20 years dedicated to consolidating an organized, solid and powerful structure from which to hatch plans for expansion and collaboration with Al Qaeda.
The Syrian secret services informed Spain that Manaf Mohamed Tajuddin Kutayni is the leader of a jihadist faction affiliated with Al Qaeda
This is what the State security forces and bodies believe, which have been tracking this family for years. A huge amount of police wiretaps, surveillance and reports to which El Confidencial has had access trace its links with jihadist terrorism, specifically the financing of groups related to the network founded by Bin Laden in which the clan also has a presence. Added to this is secular opposition to the Assad family, from the Shiite branch, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist for half a century.
As reported by the Syrian secret services to Spanish investigators, Manaf Mohamed Tajuddin Kutayni is the leader of a jihadist faction affiliated with Al Qaeda established in Maarat An-Numan, in the province of Idlib. Its location between Damascus and Aleppo made the city a strategic point in the Syrian civil war and hosted bloody clashes between Al Assad’s troops and the rebels made up of an amalgam of small groups, including jihadists.
Reports on Manaf place him in command posts of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. This group was considered the most violent within the rebel camp and would gain international fame under the name Al Nusra Front for being the brand that Al Qaeda chose to be present in the Syrian hornet’s nest. The refusal of another radical leader named Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi to bow to Al Nusra’s discipline led him to break with Al Qaeda and lead a new group called the Islamic State on his own. Over the years, this movement and the self-proclamation of the caliphate would prove key to the liberation of Humman Kutayni.
They created it on May 14, 2011, two months after the outbreak of war, and Fares put two of his sons Ammar and Bilal in charge. The first traveled in February 2018 with his sister Rim and mother Sabah to Istanbul to pick up his brother who had just been released from prison. The trip was managed by Spain, according to the reports consulted by this newspaper. Another link of the family with jihadism is that Ammar Kutayni’s phone number appeared in the phone book of Deniz Ibrayam Redzheb, condemned by the Supreme Court for his involvement in a network that captured for Al Qaeda in the so-called Al Andalus Brigade.
From Moncloa to Zarzuela, Tatary’s contacts were unlimited. Syrian like his relatives, in his environment they called him Abu Islam (Father of Islam)
All these investigations led in June 2019 to the Warmor operation of the General Information Commission of the National Police in which ten people were arrested and 14 investigated, including several members of the Kutayni clan. The National Court decreed the entry into prison for seven detainees. They were accused of belonging to a criminal organization, collaboration and financing of terrorism, money laundering, tax fraud, document falsification and favoring illegal immigration. Thus ended years of activities allegedly outside the law.
Tatary has always been the visible face and the interlocutor with politicians, mayors, presidents of the Government or with the Zarzuela on behalf of the Muslim community in Spain since it was established as such 40 years ago. Syrian like his relatives, in his environment they called him Abu Islam (Father of Islam). His contacts were unlimited as president of the Islamic Community of Spain, the representative body of Muslims before the State that opened all doors to him. This institution also has a fundamental weight when it comes to controlling the messages that are disseminated in mosques in a country with two million Muslims.
Tatary’s death provoked messages of condolences from both the Government and the Royal House. He was a celebrated figure in the religious community since the 1980s. With the Law of Religious Freedom, the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE) and the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) were founded. The two came together to form the CIE, something like the Islamic equivalent of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Since then, UCIDE and FEERI have been facing each other within that institution. But in all disputes the majority current of Tatary always prevailed.
In July 2020, Ayman Adlbi was elected with 84 percent of the votes in an assembly held in the Tetouan Mosque. Just a few days earlier, he had also been unanimously appointed as Tatary’s successor as head of the majority UCIDE, whose headquarters are also located in the Madrid mosque. However, the long shadow of the Kutayni in the official religious community did not end there. Less than a year later, the National Police returned to focus on the CIE with the arrest of the new president in a phase of Operation Warmor.
Ayman Adlbi also issued a statement to explain himself. He clarified that the police barely kept him in custody for a few hours and showed his discomfort at so many paraphernalia. The issue, he said, “could have been resolved with an interview” at the mosque or the police station. In the same operation, another person linked to the UCIDE was arrested. Like the rest of the plot, he was accused of sending amounts of money to Syria to finance terrorist factions. From the Spanish Islamic Commission (CIE) they came out in defense of this second implicated.