Source: DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 20, 2017
Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido repeatedly promised on Saturday Aug. 19 that after the Islamic State’s car attacks Thursday and Friday had left 14 dead and more than 130 injured in two Spanish cities, the terrorist network responsible for the violence had been “fully dismantled” and no longer posed a threat.
That assurance was meant to calm the jittery public and visitors, but was far from representing all the facts..
DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources report that the clandestine ISIS cell which ran those attacks from a base in the small Ripoli, near Spain’s Pyrenean border with France, has indeed gone out of business. But it was only one branch of a broad terror network stretching out from Morocco across at least six European countries: Spain, France, Germany, Belgium Holland, and as far north as Finland, where a Moroccan “refugee” Friday stabbed to death two women in the southwestern town of Turku.
There are troubling signs that the attacks in Spain and Finland were no more than the opening shots of a major onslaught in preparation by this Islamic State network. Unusually, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in Cambrils, Spain, after first claiming the prior outrage on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas promenade. The second claim cited both attacks, substantiating the link in an ongoing chain of events. The bomb-making workshop, which accidentally blew up at Acrona, also provided lethal evidence of an organization bent on sowing death on a massive scale.
In Cambrils, police shot dead all five terrorists, after they used a vehicle to replicate the Barcelona outrage, killing one person and injuring seven. Four suspects are in police custody.
Most of the perpetrators of the Catalan attacks were in fact local residents of Moroccan descent. Some had direct links to ISIS contacts in Syria and Iraq, and some were discovered leaving the country to fight with ISIS in Syria.
On May 22, Spanish and Moroccan anti-terror agencies working in conjunction rounded up a group of suspects in Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. They were in possession of large amounts of weapons and preparing to strike a famous music festival in the town that attracts audiences from many countries.
Catalans were found in this group too.
Since the deadly Barcelona terror attack, a pattern has emerged of mass-casualty crimes mostly targeting popular international holiday resorts during this summer. The Spanish authorities knew that the Catalan cell, which operated as part of this multi-armed killing machine, was run by the “Wilaya of the Islamic State in the Maghreb al-Aqsa-Morocco,” which takes its orders from the ISIS central command in Syria.
Nonetheless no high security alerts marred the peak tourism season at Catalonia’s holiday resorts, even though local Muslim extremists had been picked up on their way to Morocco or Syria.
DEBKAfile’s terror experts note that the Turku attack was a small pointer to the broad wingspread of the ISIS network run from Morocco, but it has not told Europe’s counter-terror authorities where those scattered cells will strike next.