Iraq crisis
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of a northern Raqqa provinceReuters

The leader of a terror cell affiliated with Isis (now known as the Islamic State) that has been broken up by authorities in Morocco and Spain is the brother of a former Spanish soldier, according to sources close to the investigation.

One Spanish national and eight Moroccans were arrested in anti-terror raids conducted by authorities in the Moroccan town of Nador and Spain's enclave of Melilla that borders Morocco.

According to Spain's El Pais newspaper, the Spanish national was the head of the terror cell and sources claimed that his brother was a former soldier in the elite unite of the Spanish army known as the Spanish Legion.

The group's chief had been linked to the theft and trafficking of stolen cars in order to raise funds for Isis.

A number of the men who were arrested had been in combat in Syria, while all had received military training in explosives and firearms.

In a statement, Spain's interior ministry said that the counter-terrorism operation is ongoing as police continue to search the home of the leader's residence in Spain's North African enclave of Melilla.

Another statement from the Moroccan authorities claimed that the terror cell also had a close connection to al-Qaida's branch in North Africa, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The operation represented the second Spanish-Moroccoan counterterrorism raid in recent months, with another recruiting network targeted in Spain's other North African enclave of Ceuta in August.

Moroccan authorities have suggested that there are up to 2,000 Moroccan jihadists fighting for various radical Islamist groups in both Iraq and Syria.