Police are zeroing in on a suspect they believe is behind the deadly terrorist attacks in Spain last week.
The suspect, Abdelbaki Es Satty, was the former imam at a mosque in the town of Ripoll, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The northeastern town was home to several of the 11 people police suspect were involved in the attacks on Thursday, in which a man drove a van into a pedestrians on a crowded street in Barcelona. Fifteen people died as a result of the attack, and more than 100 were injured.
Hours later, a car carrying five attackers killed a pedestrian in the nearby town of Cambrils. All five attackers were killed by police in a shootout.
Es Satty may have been responsible for radicalizing the young men who carried out the attacks, investigators said. The terrorist cell also appeared to have been plotting at least one bombing in Barcelona — a plan that was aborted when gas canisters being used to assemble bombs accidentally exploded. Es Satty may have died in the blast, a Catalan police spokesman said, according to The Journal.
The last remaining suspect, Younes Abouyaaqoub, was shot by police on Monday, after a manhunt that lasted days, The New York Times reported. His condition is unknown. All other suspects are either dead or arrested.
According to The Times, Es Satty is reported to have links to the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks. The imam reportedly brought the future attackers under his influence in Ripoll, eventually radicalizing them. He appears to have targeted siblings — there were four sets of brothers among those in the cell — possibly because family ties make it more difficult to leave the group or go to the police.
Es Satty, a Moroccan national, was jailed for two years in 2012 for smuggling hashish between Morocco and Spain, according to The Telegraph. It was in prison where he may have been influenced by Rachid Aglif, one of the perpetrators of a 2004 terrorist attack that killed 192 people in Madrid.
Locals familiar with Es Satty said the imam showed no signs of extremism leading up to the attacks.
“He never speaks of jihad or killing” in his sermons, Mohammed Ichabad, a regular at the mosque, told The Journal. “He was a normal person,” said Nourdine el Haji, a man who shared an apartment with El Satty for four months.
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