Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

On the explosive trail of Spain’s attackers

August 21, 2017


© AFP / by Daniel SILVA | A policewoman walks with dozen of gas bottles in the background in Alcanar, during a search linked to the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks


A strong explosion at a house in Alcanar in southern Catalonia which was initially treated as a random gas blast was in fact the trigger to the twin vehicle attacks which shook Spain, and unified it in defiance.

The accident deprived a jihadist cell of bomb material they planned to use in a larger attack and prompted them to instead use vehicles to plough into pedestrians, killing 14 people.

Here is a timeline of events leading up to the attacks, including police on Monday saying they had shot dead a man would could be the alleged fugitive driver of the Barcelona van, Younes Abouyaaqoub:

– April 2017 –

The jihadist cell is already in Alcanar, according to their neighbour Martine Groby, a 61-year-old French retiree.

“They were very discreet, too discreet. The shutters were closed, there was no music, no children, no women,” she told AFP.

She said her father, a former policeman, told her the young men living next door were “terrorists” and told her to take down their number plates.

He found it strange that they kept coming and going all day.

“I should have listened to him,” said Groby, her eyes welling with tears.

– Wednesday August 16 –


An explosion at a house some 200 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of Barcelona kills one person and seriously injures another. Six other people are slightly injured.

The blast is so strong it is heard four kilometres away. The explosion may have been caused by a canister of butane and propane gas, local TV reported.

It was not known at the time that the house stored the ingredients needed to make the Islamic State group’s preferred explosive, triacetone triperoxide, or TATP.

The explosive has been used in attacks in London, Paris, Brussels and Manchester.

– Thursday August 17 –


One of the attackers, Said Aallaa, tells his family that he is going out with a friend. He leaves his home in Ripoll in northern Catalonia and travels some 200 kilometres to the seaside resort of Cambrils.

Aallaa was in a car that hours later rammed into pedestrians in Cambrils, leaving one woman dead after one of the assailants jumped out of the vehicle and stabbed her with a knife.


A second, smaller explosion rocks the house in Alcanar. At the time police, who at this point still had not linked the house to terrorism, were removing rubble with an excavator.

Six police officers, two firefighters and the driver of the excavator are injured.


A white van speeds into people along a 500 metre (1,600 feet) stretch of the pedestrian concourse at the centre of Barcelona’s most famous street, Las Ramblas, killing 13 people and injuring over 100 others.

The suspect driver and only passenger of the van, Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, escapes on foot, disappearing into the city’s most famous food market, La Boqueria.


Abouyaaqoub arrives at Barcelona’s univerity zone about six kilometres (3.5 miles) away where he approaches a car and stabs to death its occupant, 34-year-old Pau Perez.

He throws Perez’s body in the back seat of the Ford Focus and drives away.

Shortly after Abouyaaqoub comes up against a police checkpoint. He forces the stolen car through, injuring a police officer. Police fire shots at the car.


Officers find the stolen car with a body of a man inside in Sant Just Desvern, a town just outside of Barcelona.

Police believe at first that the man died from their gunshots but they later realise he was stabbed. On Monday they announced that the body was that of Perez.


The chief of Catalonia’s regional police, Josep Lluis Trapero, says for the first time that the vehicle attack in Barcelona is linked to the explosion at the house in Alcanar.

– Friday August 18 –


Moussa Oukabir, 17, Mohamed Hychami, 24, and Said Aallaa, 18, along with two other unnamed accomplices drive an Audi A3 into pedestrians on the promenade at Cambrils.

They try to force their way through a police checkpoint and injure one officer. They then get out of the car wearing fake explosives belts and armed with knives and axes.

A police officer shoots four of them dead. A fifth attacker tries to flee and another police officer shoots him dead.

Before he was shot he had time to stab a woman who later died, becoming the 15th victim of the attacks.

– Monday, August 21 –


Police said they had shot dead a man wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt, and could be Younes Abouyaaqoub, the alleged fugitive driver of the van that mowed down crowds in Barcelona, a source close to the probe said.

Police confirmed the shooting, but did not identify him.

by Daniel SILVA

Migrant boats in Black Sea spark fears of new route

August 21, 2017


© AFP/File | A boat carrying Iraqis and Syrians, including 23 children, was intercepted late Sunday in the Black Sea in Romania’s southeastern Constanta region, officials said
BUCHAREST (AFP) – Romanian authorities said Monday that they had caught a fishing boat with 68 asylum seekers off Romania’s coast, the second such incident in a week, raising fears that a new migrant route to Europe is opening up.

The boat carrying Iraqis and Syrians, including 23 children, was intercepted late Sunday in the Black Sea in Romania’s southeastern Constanta region, officials said.

“They were accompanied by two Turkish traffickers,” Ionela Pasat, a spokeswoman for the Constanta coastguard, told AFP.

The group was brought to the port of Mangalia for medical examinations on Monday before being handed over to the immigration authorities, she said.

On August 13, coastguards discovered a boat with 69 Iraqi migrants in Romanian waters. One Bulgarian and one Cypriot were taken into custody on suspicion of human trafficking.

EU member Romania, which is not part of the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone, has largely been spared the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

But Bucharest worries that the Black Sea could become an alternative route to the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

More than 111,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea so far this year, most of them arriving in Italy from Libya, according to the most recent figures.

Over 2,300 have died attempting the crossing.

This month, NGO rescue ships were banned from patrolling waters off Libya where hundreds of thousands of people have been rescued in recent years and brought to Italy.

Barcelona terrorist Younes Abouyaaqoub ‘shot and killed by Spanish police while wearing suicide vest’

August 21, 2017

Police said suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub was the driver of the van that killed 13 people on Las Ramblas

BARCELONA terror suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub has been shot and killed by cops while wearing a suicide belt, according to local reports.

Cops suspect the 22-year-old was the driver of the van that killed 13 people on tourist hotspot Las Ramblas.

CCTV captured Younes Abouyaaqoub, the main suspect wanted in connect in with the Barcelona terror attack

CCTV captured Younes Abouyaaqoub, the main suspect wanted in connect in with the Barcelona terror attack

The suspicious man in  wears what looks like a belt of explosives attached to the body. This man has been shot down

Officers confirmed that a man wearing a suicide belt had been shot by police, but it is not known if the device was real or fake.

The shooting took place in Subirats, a town about an hour’s drive west from Barcelona.

A Mossos d’Esquadra spokesman said: “We cannot at this stage confirm that the man who has been shot is Younes Abouyaaquoub.
“What we can confirm is that the suspicious person was wearing what appeared to be an explosives belt.
“I cannot say at this stage whether he has been killed or not.”

Earlier today chilling CCTV images emerged of the Las Ramblas massacre driver calmly fleeing the scene on foot after killing 13 and injuring more than 100 others.

Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, is being hunted after a group of fanatics massacred 14 people and injured 130

Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, is being hunted after a group of fanatics massacred 14 people and injured 130

Police are scrambling to find Abouyaaqoub, whose documents were reportedly found in a second rented van.

Police were scrambling to find Abouyaaqoub, whose documents were reportedly found in a second rented van

Chilling CCTV stills show the killer walking calmly from the scene of the massacre

Chilling CCTV stills show the killer walking calmly from the scene of the massacre

Younes Abouyaaqoub and Said Aallaa are being hunted by cops

Younes Abouyaaqoub was being hunted by police

Police release image of Younes Abouyaaqoub who is believed to be the Las Ramblas terror attack van driver

Abouyaaqoub abandoned the van he had ploughed into pedestrians after the airbag was triggered, Catalan daily La Vanguardia reported.

The airbag’s detonation reportedly immobilised the Renault Kangoo’s electrical system, forcing him to end his massacre and flee.

He would go on to a stab another man to death before stealing his victim’s Ford Focus to make his escape from Barcelona, police have revealed.

Fears suspected van driver in terror attack at Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Younes Abouyaaqoub, has fled to France

Cops believe the attacker took the car about 90 minutes after the attack and rammed into officials at a police checkpoint before abandoning it with its owner’s dead body inside.

The 15th victim of last week’s atrocities in Spain was killed in a separate attack by suspected Islamist militants hours later in a seaside resort in Cambrils.

Victims included seven-year-old British boy  Julian Cadman who has been described as an “energetic, funny and cheeky” boy.

Cops launched a Europe-wide hunt for Abouyaaqoub and issued CCTV images in the hope of tracking him down.

Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero admitted that the fugitive could have changed his appearance since going on the run last Thursday.


“We want any information people can give us about him, not only obviously about where he is now so we can catch him, but also details about his past, who he was, who his contacts were, the places he used to frequent.

“He may now have grown a three-to-four day beard and could obviously have changed his clothes.”

Police raided Abouyaaqoub’s flat in Ripoll – around 65 miles from Barcelona – as they announced the terror cell behind the attacks has been “dismantled”.

The alleged ringleader of the Spain terror attacks had links to one of the 2004 Madrid bombers and was in Brussels shortly before bombings there in 2016, according to reports.

Abdelbaki Es Satty is thought to have radicalised the younger members of the cell that attacked Las Ramblas and Cambrils.

Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is thought to have radicalised the terrorist cell

Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is thought to have radicalised the terrorist cell

But The Times reports that police are investigating whether he was involved in the ISIS assaults on Brussels airport and a Metro station that killed 32 people on March 22, 2016.

And according to Sky News officials have said Es Satty did have extremist connections which links him to the Madrid attacks of 2014.

He went to prison five years ago for trafficking hashish from Morocco to Spain, and was locked up alongside Rachid Aglif, jailed for his role in what is Spain’s worst terror attack.

A carriage was blown to be bits after the bomb went off during rush hour during the 2004 Madrid attack

A carriage was blown to be bits after the bomb went off during rush hour during the 2004 Madrid attack

Horrific scenes unfolding following the Brussels airport attack last year

Horrific scenes unfolding following the Brussels airport attack last year


Younes Abouyaaqoub and Said Aallaa are being hunted by cops

Said Aallaa has been killed. Younes Abouyaaqoub is being hunted by cops.

Mohamed Hychami is on the run, and Moussa Oukabir is reportedly dead

Mohamed Hychami and Moussa Oukabir were killed, cops confirmed

The van involved in the attack was reportedly rented by Driss Oukabir. Picture issued by police.

The van involved in the attack was reportedly rented by Driss Oukabir. Picture issued by police.

At least 191 people were killed and thousands were injured when an al Qaeda-linked terror cell detonated bombs on commuter trains during the morning rush hour.

It comes as Spanish authorities have said they have dismantled the network of 12 terrorists, confirming they now know the identities of two bodies found in the Alcanar home that exploded as the group plotted their attacks.

Missing Imam Becomes Focus of Post-Barcelona Terror Attack Search

August 21, 2017

Police focused on Moroccan national Abdelbaki Es Satty, who led a mosque in Ripoll, Spain

Ali Yassine, the president of Ripoll’s Annour Islamic community, and spokesman Hamid Barbach are seen at a mosque where imam Abdelbaki Es Satty preached in Ripoll, north of Barcelona.
Ali Yassine, the president of Ripoll’s Annour Islamic community, and spokesman Hamid Barbach are seen at a mosque where imam Abdelbaki Es Satty preached in Ripoll, north of Barcelona. PHOTO: ALBERT GEA/REUTERS

RIPOLL, Spain—An imam in northeastern Spain emerged as a prime suspect in the investigation of the terror attack in Barcelona as Spanish authorities look into whether he radicalized a group of young men and plotted with them to launch an even deadlier assault.

Spanish authorities said Sunday they are looking into Abdelbaki Es Satty in connection with the attack Thursday, when a terrorist drove a van into a crowd in central Barcelona and killed 13 people. Mr. Es Satty, a Moroccan national, was the former imam at a mosque in Ripoll, the hometown of most of the 11 others police suspect of involvement.

Josep Lluís Trapero, police chief in Catalonia, said investigators believe that the cell may have been conspiring for more than six months to carry out one or more bombings in Barcelona, but was aborted when gas canisters being used to build bombs exploded.

A spokeswoman for the Catalan police said Mr. Es Satty may have died in that blast, which took place in a tiny town 190 miles from Barcelona and reduced a house to rubble. Police are trying to identify charred human remains there.

At the site, “we found materials for explosives that are similar to the ones usually used by Daesh,” or Islamic State, Mr. Trapero said. The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

If the investigation confirms the plot was as extensive as officials believe, it would represent a departure from the terrorist attacks in Europe seen more recently, which have largely involved lone wolves rather than a network.

Spanish authorities expressed confidence Sunday they are close to apprehending the last remaining suspect, Younes Abouyaaqoub. They said all the others they suspect of involvement are dead or arrested.

The development comes three days after the attack in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas neighborhood, which injured scores in addition to the dead. Hours after that van attack, a car drove into pedestrians in a town 75 miles to the southwest, Cambrils, killing one. A police shootout with those in the car killed all five.

Authorities said Sunday they are investigating whether Mr. Es Satty may have radicalized a group of young Muslim men of Moroccan origin in Ripoll, whose population of 11,000 includes about 1,100 Muslims.

Some locals said the young men were becoming more fervent in their faith, attending the mosque more assiduously earlier this year and sometimes wearing djellabas, traditional robes of North Africa.

Townspeople in Ripoll were mostly mystified by the turn taken by a group who appeared well integrated in their local community and had no record of terrorist activity.

“We aren’t able to say what the origin of the radicalization was,” said Mr. Trapero, the police chief. “The imam is one of our lines of investigation.” Police searched his apartment on Friday.

When local Muslim leaders in 2015 hired Mr. Es Satty as imam at one of the town’s two mosques, they were unaware he had once been in prison, according to mosque officials. Spanish authorities confirmed his imprisonment Sunday but didn’t say what it was for. Authorities said he had contacts with someone with alleged links to terrorism.

Mr. Es Satty did little to meld with Ripoll’s tight-knit Muslim community, according to locals. They recalled him as sober and distant, sitting alone when he ate in cafes.

In his sermons, “he never speaks of jihad or killing,” said Mohammed Ichabad, a regular at the mosque. Nourdine el Haji, a 45-year-old who shared an apartment with the imam for four months in Ripoll’s center, was among those who said they saw no signs of extremism. “He was a normal person,” Mr. el Haji said.

Some local Muslims complained the mosque was lax, with attendees often eating during Ramadan, and Mr. Es Satty irked families by charging to tutor their children on Islam. Some said they traveled to another town to pray.

Authorities are investigating Mr. Es Satty’s contacts with the group of young men in Ripoll, who also had shown no signs of extremism, according to friends and family, but have been implicated by police.

They went to Institut Abat Oliva, the local public high school. Two of them were Driss Oukabir, 28, and his 17-year-old brother Moussa, who banded together with brothers Mohamed Hychami and Omar Hychami. Moussa Oukabir and the Hychami brothers were all killed in the police shootout in Cambrils hours after the Barcelona attack.

Driss Oukabir was arrested Thursday after authorities found that the van used in Barcelona had been rented in his name. He denied involvement, saying his brother stole his identification to rent it, according to Ripoll’s mayor.

Núria Rifà, who went to primary school with the Oukabir brothers, remembers Driss as “a very sweet guy” happy to chat in the street when they met. His brother Moussa became “much more of a rebel” in recent times, she said, “but not unlike other kids. I never heard of him getting involved in any brawl or anything.”

Moussa was “a good player, he got along perfectly with his teammates and the team with him as well,” said Jordi Leiva, once his soccer coach at the Ripoll Club de Futbol. Mr. Leiva said he also worked at a foundry with Mohamed Hychami, whom he recalled as a jokester.

“I was shocked because I knew the two pretty well,” he said.

Police said Mr. Abouyaaqoub, the fugitive and now focus of a manhunt, may have been the driver of the van in Barcelona.

He lived with his parents, two sisters and a brother in an apartment building in a poorer area of Ripoll with many Moroccan immigrants. “There’s a lot of racism around,” said Jordi Fàbregas, who lives in the building. “But generally people get along.”

The young men suspected in the attacks played soccer together and spent time at a riverbank that is a hangout for young people. They spoke to each other in Catalan, which is the majority language in the area but not common among first-generation immigrants, who use often use Spanish.

Neighbors and friends said the boys mingled with locals, liked to party, regularly drank alcohol and rarely attended the mosque. Then, around the end of last year or start of this year, some locals noticed the young men becoming more observant.

The house that exploded was on an unpaved road on the outskirts of Alcanar, a coastal town about 190 miles south of Ripoll. It is a place where seasonal workers come to pick olives each year, with fewer than 100 residents in winter. It is dotted with abandoned 1980s-era homes sometimes used by squatters.

Speaking of the house that exploded, some residents said they saw men going in and out for as long as a year, mostly after dark. One neighbor told of hearing noises coming from it late into the night.

This summer, the activity intensified, said Carmen Circiumaru, 48, who lives next door. She saw four young men going in and out throughout the day.

Fernando Gruas-Esteve, a 70-year-old retiree living nearby, said he saw men driving up to the building in a small Volkswagen and on a green motorcycle, always keeping their helmets on.

One neighbor described smelling a gas odor from the house one night last week.

Just before midnight Wednesday, residents heard two explosions in rapid succession and saw two fireballs, said Sarah-Lena Schenk, a German tourist on holiday nearby.

The next morning, the house was rubble. Authorities said Sunday more than 100 butane gas tanks had been found in it.

Mr. Es Satty, the former Ripoll imam now suspected of involvement in the week’s terrorism, stepped down from the mosque in June, saying he had to return to Morocco to deal with an inheritance.

The group of young men then stopped going to the mosque as abruptly as they had begun, some friends said.

On Tuesday, the day before the Barcelona attack, Mr. Es Satty said he would finally be leaving Spain. Locals were surprised to spot him later in Vic, a neighboring city, where police later found one of the vans implicated in the attacks.

At the Cafeteria Esperanza, a Ripoll café frequented by Muslims, a few locals gathered over the weekend watching the news.

“Everybody knows them here,” one patron said of the young men. “Who ate their brains? It’s not religion.”

Write to Jon Sindreu at

Appeared in the August 21, 2017, print edition as ‘Spain Eyes Imam in Attack.’



Marseille terror as truck ploughs into two bus shelters, at least one dead

August 21, 2017
AT LEAST one person was killed and another injured in Marseille after a pick-up truck crashed into two bus shelters in different parts of the southern French city.

PUBLISHED: 10:10, Mon, Aug 21, 2017 | UPDATED: 11:11, Mon, Aug 21, 2017
French police said one person was killed in an initial crash at a bus stop, then another person was injured in a second crash at another bus stop in the Aix-en-Provence port town popular with British tourists.The victim who was killed has been confirmed to be a 42-year-old woman, while the second, injured victim is a 29-year-old woman.

The 35-year-old driver was arrested at the scene, a French police source said.

It is not clear if the man drove into the bus shelters deliberately.

The first person was injured at 8.15am local time after a white Renault Master pick-up truck, believed to be stolen earlier this morning, smashed into a bus shelter in the 13th arrondissement, in the poorer northern party of the city.An hour later, at 9am local time (8am BST), the woman was killed after another bus shelter was driven into in the 11th arrondissement, several miles south of the first crash.

The crashes come as French police have joined in the search for Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, who is suspected to have been the driver of the van which ploughed into dozens of people in Barcelona on Thursday, killing 13 people.

Spanish authorities fear the terror attack perpetrator has fled to France as they have still not managed to pin him down in Spain.


The crash happened in Marseille

The source, added: “At the moment we have no information on the motives of this individual.”ISIS supporters have already started praising the incident.

The crash comes as France remains on high alert following a series of terror attacks over the past two years.

A handful of ISIS supporters have used trucks and cars to cause carnage in several French cities and towns, including nearby Nice on Bastille Day last year.

Earlier this month six counter-terror soldiers were injured after a man rammed his BMW into them outside a barracks in a “deliberate act of terror”.


Crime scene investigators were combing through smashed glass in Marseille

Earlier today it was revealed Paris police found an arsenal of rocket launchers last Thursday in the capital’s Saint-Denis neighbourhood which is known for being home to several ISIS sympathisers and terrorists.Three anti-tank rocket launchers as well as automatic rifles, explosives, 12 and 9mm calibre ammunition were found.Police also found 40kg of cannabis resin, police lights and bulletproof vests in a bicycle room inside the house.

Two suspects, aged 30 and 40, who had been under surveillance for several weeks, were arrested and placed in custody.

This is a breaking story.


Police extend search for Barcelona van attacker to all of Europe

August 21, 2017



© Raymond Roig, AFP | Spanish police officers control vehicles as they cross the border between La-Jonquera in Spain and Le-Perthus in France on August 20, 2017.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-08-21

Spanish police on Monday confirmed they had identified the driver of a van that mowed down pedestrians in Barcelona, killing 13, as an international manhunt for the suspect deepened.

In a tweet, police in Catalonia said they knew who the driver was without naming him, but regional interior minister Joaquim Forn said in a radio interview that “everything suggests the van driver is Younes Abouyaaqoub”.

Forn said the search for the 22-year-old Moroccan-born man had been extended to other European countries, amid fears he may already have slipped across the border into France.

“This person is no longer just being sought in Catalonia but in all European countries, this is an effort by European police,” Forn told Catalan radio.

The suspect is believed to be the last remaining member of a 12-person cell still at large in Spain or abroad, with the others killed by police or detained over last week’s twin attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils.

Investigators have honed in on an imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, aged in his 40s, who is among the suspects and is believed to have radicalised youths in Ripoll, a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees.

Several suspects — including Abouyaaqoub — grew up or lived there.

Police raided more homes there on Monday morning, Forn said.


Police said the imam had spent time in prison and had once been in contact with a suspect wanted on terrorism charges, without giving further details.

El Mundo newspaper reported that Satty had struck up a friendship in prison with Rachid Aglif, who is serving an 18-year sentence over the 2004 Madrid train bomb attacks, which killed 191 people.

Prosecutors in Belgium also said he had spent time in the country, without elaborating.

The imam has been missing since Tuesday. On Saturday, police raided his apartment. They have raised the possibility that he died in an explosion on Wednesday evening at a house believed to be the suspects’ bomb-making factory, where police uncovered a cache of 120 gas canisters.

The suspected jihadists had been preparing bombs for “one or more attacks in Barcelona”, regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero told reporters, revealing that traces of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) — a homemade explosive that is a hallmark of the Islamic State (IS) group — had also been found.

The suspects accidentally caused an explosion at the house on the eve of Thursday’s attack in Barcelona — an error that likely forced them to modify their plans.

Instead, they used a vehicle to smash into crowds on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard as it was thronged with tourists, killing 13 people and injuring about 100.

Several hours later, a similar attack in the seaside town of Cambrils left one woman dead. Police shot and killed the five attackers in Cambrils, some of whom were wearing fake explosive belts and carrying knives.

The IS group claimed responsibility for the attacks, believed to be its first in Spain.



See also:

The imam, said to be a father of about 45 years old, had never said or done anything to prompt concern, said the mosque chief, Ali Yassine.

“We never heard anything about him or received any (complaint) until this happened, and we don’t know how this happened, this has fallen on us like a stone,” he said. But, he added, no one could know what was happening “inside a person’s head”.

The suspected cell members rarely came to the mosque, but from their little interaction had seemed like “normal boys”, Mr Yassine explained, adding that he had only ever seen Younes Aouyaaquoub “three or four times”.

Ali Yassine talks to the media inside Ripoll Mosque

Mosque president Ali Yassine talks to the media after the attacks CREDIT:  JEFF GILBERT

Mr Yassine said he was not aware of any lessons the iman was conducting outside the mosque, insisting that if he had learned that was happening, he would have prevented it and gone to the police.

The mosque president emphatically condemned this week’s attacks, saying terrorism were the acts of “crazy people”.

“Our religion does not permit us to do this ever, our religion totally condemns these terrorist actions,” he said. “Our religion is peace, Islam is peace.”

What remains unclear is exactly what led the cell to Alcanar, a town almost 200 miles to the south, where police believe they were preparing an attack initially intended to involve explosives.

Alcanar and Cambrils both sit in a coastal area south of Barcelona that has gained a reputation as a Salafist hotbed after a number of terror arrests in recent years. It was in Salou, adjacent to Cambrils, that one of the 9/11 attackers, Mohammed Atta, held a meeting with a key al-Qaeda figure. But its connection to Ripoll is unknown.

Imam in Spanish Town Emerges as Suspect in Barcelona Attack

August 21, 2017

Police focused on Moroccan national Abdelbaki Es Satty, who led a mosque in Ripoll, Spain

Photos: Many Dead After Van Attack on Barcelona Thoroughfare
People leave the cordoned-off area in Barcelona. A terrorist mowed down pedestrians with a van in the heart of Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday, killing at least 13 people and injuring scores in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Witnesses recalled their panic and shock.

Aug. 20, 2017 8:12 p.m. ET

RIPOLL, Spain—An imam in northeastern Spain emerged as a prime suspect in the investigation of the terror attack in Barcelona as Spanish authorities look into whether he radicalized a group of young men and plotted with them to launch an even deadlier assault.

Spanish authorities said Sunday they are looking into Abdelbaki Es Satty in connection with the attack Thursday, when a terrorist drove a van into a crowd in central Barcelona and killed 13 people. Mr. Es Satty, a Moroccan national, was the former imam at a mosque in Ripoll, the hometown of most of the 11 others police suspect of involvement.

Josep Lluís Trapero, police chief in Catalonia, said investigators believe that the cell may have been conspiring for more than six months to carry out one or more bombings in Barcelona, but was aborted when gas canisters being used to build bombs exploded.


Barcelona attack: Moroccan imam at centre of Spain terror cell had links with Madrid bombers and Belgium

Investigation widening amid fears van driver may have fled into France

By Lizzie Dearden

The Independent

The imam believed to be the ringleader of the Spain attackers had links with the 2004 Madrid bombers and recently travelled to Belgium, it has emerged.

Investigators are piecing together the background of Isis supporters who launched two deadly attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils as the driver of the van used to kill 13 people remains at large.

Police say they cannot rule out the possibility that Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan who could be the only surviving member of the terror cell, has escaped into France and travelled onwards through Europe.

The investigation into the attacks has spread to several countries recently visited by attackers, including Morocco, France and Switzerland.

Belgian media reported that the suspected ringleader of the attack, Moroccan imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, spent at least three months in the country.

The mayor of Vilvoorde, once a notorious jihadi hub, confirmed Es Satty lived in the city from January to March 2016 – the month that saw Isis’ attacks launched in nearby Brussels – but the Belgian immigration minister said he was not registered with authorities.

Hans Bonte said Es Satty attempted to work at mosques in the city but was refused by community members who reported his arrival to the police.


Abdelbaki Es Satty is believed to have been the ringleader of the terror cell

Belgian authorities said they contacted their Catalan counterparts for information but were told he was not known to be radicalised, De Redactie reported.

The imam is not believed to have been under surveillance by Spanish security services, despite his apparent extremist connections following a period in prison in 2012.

Acquaintances of Es Satty said he was not religious until being jailed for smuggling hashish and meeting Rachid Aglif, who was serving time for his part in the al-Qaeda inspired Madrid bombings.

In 2015 he started teaching at a mosque in Ripoll, the quiet Spanish town home to most of the Spain attackers.

Friends and relatives said the plotters, including a waiter and extreme sports instructor, appeared to lead normal lives until they started attending Es Satty’s sermons.

A woman who knew members of the cell said the imam repeatedly preached about jihad and killing “infidels”, adding: “I feel like I could have done something. I feel a little bit guilty now.

“Everybody knew it. It was an open secret. But I can’t say it because these people are dangerous and they could come after me. I don’t trust anybody now.”

A building thought to have been used as a mosque by imam Abdelbaki es Satty (AFP)

Leaders of Es Satty’s former mosque denounced the terror attacks, but denied the preacher was anything other than “a normal imam”.

At least three sets of brothers and cousins were among the cell’s alleged members – a pattern previously seen among large groups of European foreign fighters joining Isis in Syria and in terror attacks including Paris, Brussels and Boston.

Only one, suspected van driver Abouyaaqoub, is known to remain alive after fleeing from the scene of the rampage that left 13 people dead and more than 100 injured on La Rambla.

Family members told Reuters that Abouyaaqoub started showing more religiously conservative behaviour within the past year, refusing to shake hands with women during a visit to his birthplace in Morocco in March.

They expressed shock and anger after discovering his alleged involvement in the Barcelona attack, with his mother, Hannou Ghanimi, telling reporters in she wanted her son to give himself up to police and would rather see him in prison than dead.

His brother, El Houssaine, and first cousins Mohamed and Omar Hichami were killed alongside Moussa Oukabir and Said Aalla by police in the second ramming attack in the resort town of Cambrils.

Es Satty was one of at least two plotters killed in an accidental explosion that destroyed a house they were using as a bomb factory in Alcanar on Wednesday night.

There are reports that possible bomb maker Youssef Aalla may have died in the explosion that wounded fellow plotter Mohamed Chemlal.

He has been detained alongside Driss Oukabir, Mohammed Aalla and Salh el Karib.

Police said traces of the volatile explosive TATP, used in Isis’ Manchester, Paris and Brussels attacks, was found alongside around 120 bottles of gas in the ruins in Alcanar.

Josep Lluis Trapero, the head of Catalonia’s police force, said the original plan to create huge vehicle bombs was foiled by the accidental blast, which rushed plotters into “rudimentary” assaults the following day.

“Our thesis is that the group had planned one or more attacks with explosives in the city of Barcelona,” Mr Trapero said.

He would not confirm that Abouyaaquoub was behind the wheel in Barcelona but confirmed that officials did not know where he or the driver are.

Asked whether Abouyaaquoub could have crossed into France, he replied: ”We don’t have any specific information on this but it cannot be ruled out.”

It would not be the first time a terrorist has managed to flee across borders in the immediate aftermath of an attack.

Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam was driven through a police checkpoint into Belgium on the night of Isis’ November 2015 massacres, while Berlin attacker Anis Amri managed to reach Italy before being shot dead by police.

Carles Puigdemont, the head of the Catalan government, denied reports that the CIA warned local police that Barcelona could be Isis’ next target.

Catalonia has become increasingly known as a centre of extremism, with almost one third of Isis-linked arrests in Spain made there, according to an analysis by a Spanish think tank.

A 2007 cable from the US State Department warned of the risk of radicalisation in Catalonia and called for a regional counter-terror hub to be set up in Barcelona.

The missive, which was later published by Wikileaks, said Spanish and American authorities had identified the region as a “major Mediterranean centre of radical Islamist activity” that had become a “magnet for terrorist recruiters”.

Officials said Catalonia housed al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam recruiters, as well as a terror cell including an unnamed imam arrested earlier that year.

The State Department cited men with a North African background at particular risk for radicalisation in “circumstances would provide fertile ground for terrorist recruitment”, adding: “The threat is clear.”

The cable described Catalonia as “a prime base of operations for terrorist activity” but claimed Spanish authorities had little intelligence on or ability to penetrate the groups.

Questions remain over how the cell of more than a dozen plotters were able to plan multiple and sophisticated terror attacks without detection, and on the extent of Isis’ involvement in the massacres.

See also:

The Rise of the Violent Left — After Charlottesville, People Want To Know About Antifa

August 20, 2017

Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?

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Antifa is a far-left militant political movement of autonomous, self-described anti-fascist groups in the United States. The term is loosely used to refer to anti-racistanti-sexistanti-homophobia, as well as anarchist and anti-capitalist groups.


September 2017
The Atlantic

Since 1907, portland, oregon, has hosted an annual Rose Festival. Since 2007, the festival had included a parade down 82nd Avenue. Since 2013, the Republican Party of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, had taken part. This April, all of that changed.

In the days leading up to the planned parade, a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.” The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.” A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”

Next, the parade’s organizers received an anonymous email warning that if “Trump supporters” and others who promote “hateful rhetoric” marched, “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.” When Portland police said they lacked the resources to provide adequate security, the organizers canceled the parade. It was a sign of things to come.

For progressives, Donald Trump is not just another Republican president. Seventy-six percent of Democrats, according to a Suffolk poll from last September, consider him a racist. Last March, according to a YouGov survey, 71 percent of Democrats agreed that his campaign contained “fascist undertones.” All of which raises a question that is likely to bedevil progressives for years to come: If you believe the president of the United States is leading a racist, fascist movement that threatens the rights, if not the lives, of vulnerable minorities, how far are you willing to go to stop it?

In Washington, D.C., the response to that question centers on how members of Congress can oppose Trump’s agenda, on how Democrats can retake the House of Representatives, and on how and when to push for impeachment. But in the country at large, some militant leftists are offering a very different answer. On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former editor. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

As far-flung as these incidents were, they have something crucial in common. Like the organizations that opposed the Multnomah County Republican Party’s participation in the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, these activists appear to be linked to a movement called “antifa,” which is short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action. The movement’s secrecy makes definitively cataloging its activities difficult, but this much is certain: Antifa’s power is growing. And how the rest of the activist left responds will help define its moral character in the Trump age.

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.

In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism. According to Mark Bray, the author of the forthcoming Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, these activists toured with popular alternative bands in the ’90s, trying to ensure that neo-Nazis did not recruit their fans. In 2002, they disrupted a speech by the head of the World Church of the Creator, a white-supremacist group in Pennsylvania; 25 people were arrested in the resulting brawl.

By the 2000s, as the internet facilitated more transatlantic dialogue, some American activists had adopted the name antifa. But even on the militant left, the movement didn’t occupy the spotlight. To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.

Trump has changed that. For antifa, the result has been explosive growth. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”

Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”

The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor
An antifascist demonstrator burns a Blue Lives Matter flag during a protest in Portland, Oregon, in June. (Scott Olson / Getty)

Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. A few weeks after the attacks in San Jose, for instance, a white-supremacist leader announced that he would host a march in Sacramento to protest the attacks at Trump rallies. Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento called for a counterdemonstration; in the end, at least 10 people were stabbed.

A similar cycle has played out at UC Berkeley. In February, masked antifascists broke store windows and hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at police during a rally against the planned speech by Yiannopoulos. After the university canceled the speech out of what it called “concern for public safety,” white nationalists announced a “March on Berkeley” in support of “free speech.” At that rally, a 41-year-old man named Kyle Chapman, who was wearing a baseball helmet, ski goggles, shin guards, and a mask, smashed an antifa activist over the head with a wooden post. Suddenly, Trump supporters had a viral video of their own. A far-right crowdfunding site soon raised more than $80,000 for Chapman’s legal defense. (In January, the same site had offered a substantial reward for the identity of the antifascist who had punched Spencer.) A politicized fight culture is emerging, fueled by cheerleaders on both sides. As James Anderson, an editor at It’s Going Down, told Vice, “This shit is fun.”

Portland offers perhaps the clearest glimpse of where all of this can lead. The Pacific Northwest has long attracted white supremacists, who have seen it as a haven from America’s multiracial East and South. In 1857, Oregon (then a federal territory) banned African Americans from living there. By the 1920s, it boasted the highest Ku Klux Klan membership rate of any state.

In 1988, neo-Nazis in Portland killed an Ethiopian immigrant with a baseball bat. Shortly thereafter, notes Alex Reid Ross, a lecturer at Portland State University and the author of Against the Fascist Creep, anti-Nazi skinheads formed a chapter of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. Before long, the city also had an Anti-Racist Action group.

Now, in the Trump era, Portland has become a bastion of antifascist militancy. Masked protesters smashed store windows during multiday demonstrations following Trump’s election. In early April, antifa activists threw smoke bombs into a “Rally for Trump and Freedom” in the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington. A local paper said the ensuing melee resembled a mosh pit.

When antifascists forced the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, Trump supporters responded with a “March for Free Speech.” Among those who attended was Jeremy Christian, a burly ex-con draped in an American flag, who uttered racial slurs and made Nazi salutes. A few weeks later, on May 25, a man believed to be Christian was filmed calling antifa “a bunch of punk bitches.”

The next day, Christian boarded a light-rail train and began yelling that “colored people” were ruining the city. He fixed his attention on two teenage girls, one African American and the other wearing a hijab, and told them “to go back to Saudi Arabia” or “kill themselves.” As the girls retreated to the back of the train, three men interposed themselves between Christian and his targets. “Please,” one said, “get off this train.” Christian stabbed all three. One bled to death on the train. One was declared dead at a local hospital. One survived.

The cycle continued. Nine days after the attack, on June 4, Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent. With help from other left-wing activists, they’re already having some success at disrupting government. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors. In February and March, activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”

All of this fuels the fears of Trump supporters, who suspect that liberal bastions are refusing to protect their right to free speech. Joey Gibson, a Trump supporter who organized the June 4 Portland rally, told me that his “biggest pet peeve is when mayors have police stand down … They don’t want conservatives to be coming together and speaking.” To provide security at the rally, Gibson brought in a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers. In late June, James Buchal, the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, announced that it too would use militia members for security, because “volunteers don’t feel safe on the streets of Portland.”

Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.

Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.

Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

Lebanon army takes ‘a third of territory’ from IS group on Syria border

August 20, 2017



© Lebanese Army Website / AFP | Lebanese soldiers hold up the Lebanese and Spanish national flags at Mkhayrme Mountain in Ras Baalbek, in solidarity with Spain following the twin terror attacks, August 19, 2017

Video by FRANCE 24


Latest update : 2017-08-20

Lebanese soldiers renewed fire on Islamic State group positions on the country’s eastern border with Syria on Sunday after capturing a third of the territory held by jihadists in the area.

Lebanon’s army began its operation in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa region early on Saturday, and in the first day captured around 30 square kilometres (11 miles square) of territory, a military spokesman said.

“That is around a third of the area controlled by the terrorists,” Brigadier General Nazih Jreij said late Saturday.

Jreij said 20 IS fighters had been killed in the clashes, and 10 Lebanese soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s battle against IS comes as the jihadist group faces assaults in both neighbouring Syria and Iraq, where the government early Sunday announced an offensive on the group’s bastion of Tal Afar.

The attack also comes after IS claimed several international attacks, including twin car ramming incidents in Spain that killed 14 people.

Lebanese soldiers raised the Spanish flag on a hilltop captured from IS on Saturday in a tribute to the victims of those attacks, the army said.

Lebanon’s military estimated around 600 IS fighters were present in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas, controlling around 120 square kilometres of territory before Saturday’s advances.

On Sunday, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported soldiers were firing heavy artillery and rockets at IS positions in Jurud Ras Baalbek.

The army’s assault comes after Lebanon’s powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah waged its own campaign against jihadists operating in another border area south of the current battle.

The group’s six-day offensive against IS and Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in the Jurud Arsal area ended with a ceasefire.

The agreement saw around 8,000 refugees and jihadists transported to a jihadist-held area of northwestern Syria in return for the release of five captured Hezbollah fighters.

Hezbollah said Saturday it had launched a simultaneous operation against IS from the Syrian side of the border, where the group’s fighters are battling alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s army against rebels.

Lebanon’s army denied any coordination with Hezbollah or the Syrian army.

Hezbollah’s War Media outlet said its fighters and the Syrian army had on Saturday “managed to liberate 87 square kilometres of the total area controlled by the Daesh (IS) organisation… in western Qalamun region” of Syria.

Security along Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria has long been a concern, and in 2014 jihadists invaded the town of Arsal and kidnapped 30 Lebanese soldiers and police.

Four were executed by their captors while a fifth died of his wounds.

Sixteen were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015, but another nine solders are believed to remain in IS hands.

It is not clear if they are alive or not.

Hezbollah Condemns Barcellona Attackers and Others Like Them — They Hurt The Image of Jihad, Image of Islam

August 20, 2017
 AUGUST 20, 2017 03:35

The Lebanese terrorist organization called out the Syrian-based terror group.

Hezbollah condemns Barcelona attack, saying it 'harms the image of jihad'

A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Hezbollah on Friday strongly condemned the terror attack allegedly carried out by ISIS on Thursday in Barcelona.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a van rammed into a crowd on a busy tourist street in the Spanish city, killing 13 and injuring over 100. It was followed by another similar attack in the coastal city of Cambrils, in which five suspects were shot and killed by police.

Harry Athwal, 44, stays with an injured boy after the Barcelona attack. Picture: EFE News Agency/Alamy Live News

Harry Athwal, 44, stays with an injured boy after the Barcelona attack. Picture: EFE News Agency/Alamy Live News

The Lebanon-based terrorist organization said the attack was “further proof of the criminal culture” of ISIS, and that the group’s members “are influenced by a culture of hatred of people and the killing and destruction of their property, on false pretexts that are unacceptable to common sense or religion.”

Hezbollah also added that “turning innocent civilians into targets for murder is part of a satanic plan carried out by [ISIS] terrorists” and that the group’s goal “is to harm the image of jihad and to contaminate the image of Islam.”

Barcelona terror attack

The Shi’ite organization called on the world to work together to eliminate ISIS, first by pressuring regional and international forces that support the group with funding and defense.

Hezbollah – along with the Lebanese army – is at war with ISIS. Fire was exchanged on the Lebanese-Syrian border on Saturday just after it was announced that an offensive had been launched.

From the Syrian side of the border, Hezbollah is working with the Syrian army to attack ISIS positions with missiles, artillery, and helicopter fire.