Why Spain has become a target for terrorists

This morning’s terror attack in Barcelona ended 13 years in Spain without an Islamist attack, but it hasn’t been from a lack of trying.

Up to 16 are dead and 100 injured after a van crashed into a crowd of pedestrians in a tourist-heavy district on Las Ramblas. The driver of the van is not among the two suspects who are in custody, with police still searching for the driver, who they say is unarmed.

In the past year, Spanish officials have thwarted at least three serious plots to kill civilians.

  • November, 2016: Police arrest a Moroccan near Madrid plannign a “lone wolf” attack, alerted by his “incessant activity on the internet through which he taught himself to commit terrorist acts”.
  • December, 2016: Alleged terrorist arrested in northern Spain who was planning to use lorries to copy the Nice attack on Bastille Day which resulted in 86 deaths and 458 injuries
  • May, 2017: Two Moroccan men arrested in Madrid allegedly planning a lorry attack. One had applied for a licence to dirve the same type of lorry used in the Nice attack and both were allegedly part of an online terrorist network.

The last time an Islamist attack succeeded on Spanish soil was in March 2004, when al-Qaeda operatives bombed four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people.

Since then, the country has ramped up its security force and intelligence assets, and currently tracks around 1000 people suspected of links to terrorism and ISIS.

But just as importantly, according to an intelligence analyst speaking to London’s The Times, “better integration” for the Muslim population has seen Spain avoid the same level of attacks seen in France.

“Here we don’t have ghettos as they do in France. The integration of the Muslim population is greater, the radicalisation is not so great,” the analyst said.

The Times reports Spain is considered a target for jihadists due to the fact it was largely under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492.

This time last year, ISIS’ media arm made a point of reminding militants the Spanish killed 60,000 Muslims in the battle of al-Uqab in 1212. It called on them to rise up against Spaniards in tourist hotspots such as Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, and use explosives and trucks to avenge “crimes committed by Spain against Muslims”.

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