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TERRORISM

Four attack suspects arrive in court for questioning

The four remaining alleged members of a terror cell that carried out deadly twin attacks in Spain arrived in a Madrid court on Tuesday where they will be grilled by a judge, after eight other suspects were killed.

Four attack suspects arrive in court for questioning

Under heavy security, police vans entered the National Court, which deals with terrorism cases, where a judge will decide what — if any — charges to press against them over the vehicle attacks that left 15 dead and 120 injured.   

On Monday, Spanish police shot dead Barcelona terror suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub, in a dramatic end to a massive manhunt for the Moroccan national who was wearing a fake suicide belt and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) when he was killed.

Police at the scene of the shooting of Abouyaaqoub. Photo: AFP

The Moroccan was the last remaining member of a 12-man cell suspected of plotting last week's deadly vehicle rampages in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils that were claimed by the Islamic State organisation (IS) — its first in Spain.

Four men were detained, and the rest were killed, either by police or in an explosion believed to have been accidentally detonated by the suspects themselves in their bomb factory in the seaside town of Alcanar.

Among those killed in the explosion was a Moroccan imam at the heart of the cell, Abdelbaki Es Satty, Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero confirmed Monday.

READ MORE: Barcelona attack driver shot dead by police

'Easy to hide'

Four days after the van rampage on the tourist-packed Las Ramblas boulevard, police on Monday gunned down the 22-year-old Abouyaaqoub in the village about 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of Barcelona, after receiving multiple tip-offs.

Arnau Gomez, who lives about a kilometre away from where the suspect was shot, described the village of 300 people as being an ideal hideout as “it is far from everything”.

“In the hills there are many homes of seasonal workers, it's easy to hide,” he told AFP.

In Abouyaaqoub's hometown Ripoll, where many of the suspects grew up or lived, Moroccan factory worker Hassan Azzidi said he was “happy and sad all at once” that the suspect had been gunned down.  

“This had to end, because we're living as if in a war, but at the same time, someone brainwashed such a young boy,” he said.  

In total, 15 people died in the attacks including Pau Perez, a 34-year-old man found stabbed to death in a Ford Focus outside Barcelona on Friday after Abouyaaqoub hijacked his car to make a getaway.

Imam's influence

Investigators seeking to unravel the terror cell had homed in on the small border town of Ripoll at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains in northeastern Spain.

Satty, aged in his 40s, came under scrutiny as he is believed to have radicalised youths in Ripoll.

Police said the imam had spent time in prison and had once been in contact with a suspect wanted on terrorism charges but was never himself charged with terror-related incidents.

In Belgium, the mayor of the Vilvorde region told AFP that Satty spent time in the Brussels suburb of Machelen — next to the city's airport — between January and March 2016.

In the Moroccan town of M'rirt, relatives of Abouyaaqoub have accused the imam of radicalising the young man as well as his brother Houssein.  

“Over the last two years, Younes and Houssein began to radicalise under the influence of this imam,” their grandfather told AFP.  

The suspected jihadists had been preparing bombs for “one or more attacks in Barcelona”, Trapero said Sunday, revealing that 120 gas canisters and traces of TATP — a homemade explosive that is an IS hallmark — had been found at their bomb factory.

The accidental explosion in the house in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, may have forced the suspects to modify their plans.  

Instead, they used a vehicle to smash into crowds on Barcelona's Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100.  

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

Hundreds of Muslims rallied Monday at Las Ramblas, holding slogans like “No to terrorism” and “We are Muslims, not terrorists”.

By Michaela Cancela-Kieffer / AFP

 

ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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