Madrid bans large trucks from city centre over terrorist fears

Madrid will restrict large vehicles from entering Madrid during the run up to the Three Kings parades on January 5th as security is stepped up to avert a possible terrorism attack.

Madrid bans large trucks from city centre over terrorist fears
Photo: AFP

In the wake of the jihadist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin when a truck ploughed through the crowds killing 12 people and injuring  dozens more, Spanish authorities have boosted security in public areas over the holidays.

On Friday it emerged that Madrid’s City Hall would impose a ban on large trucks and buses across much of the center of the capital from January 3rd until Epiphany.

Vehicles over 3.5 tons will be diverted away from streets that will swell with crowds during the processions on the eve of Epiphany.

The ban is in addition to security measures imposed at such events across Spain after councils were told to install extra bollards, large planters and to use police vehicles to block traffic.

Extra police have been drafted in to patrol all potential hotspots, although the Ministry of Interior has pointed that no specific terrorist threat has been detected.

“Extreme vigilance” was called for on the “prominent dates” of Christmas, New Year's Eve and on the evening of January 5th when many towns stage ‘Three Kings' parades.

Spain has been on level 4, out of a possible 5, since June 2015, the highest since the Madrid train bombings in 2006, after a shooting attack at the beach resort of Sousse in Tunisia left 38 people dead.

While Spain does not see an imminent threat from an organized cell or group, recent events in Europe have raised concern about “lone wolf” attacks.

Isis claimed responsibility for the  Berlin attack, saying that the perpetrator followed their call for adherents to attack the countries which are fighting against them in the Middle East.


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Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona

A court in Spain on Monday remanded in custody three suspected members of Islamic State arrested last week in Barcelona, including an Algerian man who had fought for the Islamist group in Iraq.

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona
Archive photo of a suspected jihadist arrested near Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities began their investigation after becoming aware just before Christmas that the “potentially dangerous” Algerian man was in Spain, police said in a statement.   

The man, a “jihadist” who had fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq, was arrested at a building occupied by squatters in Barcelona's seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta, the statement added.

Police detained two other Algerian men as part of the operation, one suspected of giving him “logistical support” in Spain and another described by police as has “acolyte”.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with European Union law enforcement agency Europol and the FBI, as well as the intelligence services of Spain and Algeria, the statement said.

The three men appeared before a court on Monday where the presiding judge ordered they be remanded in custody on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation.

Their arrest comes as the trial of three men accused of helping the jihadists behind the August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town that killed 16 people is wrapping up at a court near Madrid.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, one of which involved a van ramming people in the centre of Barcelona.   

While none of the three men on trial are charged with direct responsibility, they are in the dock for helping the attackers, who were all shot dead by police.