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TERRORISM

Islamic State terror cell planned Paris-style attack for Barcelona

The Islamic State group planned a Paris-style attack on crowded areas in Barcelona weeks before its November 2015 rampage in the French capital, according to a report published in a US magazine.

Islamic State terror cell planned Paris-style attack for Barcelona
Police patrol the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona in the wake of the attack last August. Photo: AFP

An IS network had planned to attack crowded public places in Spain's second city in September 2015 but was disrupted by the arrest of the operative at the centre of it, Moroccan national Abdeljalil Ait el-Kaid, according to the report published in CTC Sentinel, a US-based publication that researches militant affairs.

“Investigators have learned the disrupted plot to strike Barcelona was meant to be similar to the one later executed in Paris and was meant to also involve operatives from France and Belgium with whom el-Kaid was meant to link up with,” it said.

“As with the Paris attacks, the Barcelona plan was to involve the use of Kalashnikov rifles and bombs in multiple crowded spaces such as concert halls, dining areas and sports events,” it added.

The report, published in the January edition of CTS Sentinel, was prepared by two top researchers on global terrorism at the Real Institute Elcano, a Madrid think-tank.

It was based on interviews with police, intelligence officers and judicial officials with knowledge of the case as well as judicial documents that are not subject to a gag order.

READ MORE: US intelligence warned of Barcelona attack in May

El-Kaid lived in Torrevieja on the Mediterranean coast of Spain until September 2014, when he left to join the Islamic State group in Syria.    

There he allegedly joined the circle of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian who allegedly led the cell that carried out the Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

El-Kaid was arrested in June 2015 in Warsaw, Poland while in transit from Istanbul on his way back to Spain on Abaaoud's orders to prepare the attack in Barcelona, according to the report.

This plot was not related to the attacks in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils in August 2017 that killed 16 people, according to the researchers.

The only survivor among the 10 gunmen who carried out the killing spree in Paris on the night of November 13, Salah Abdeslam, is due to appear in court in Belgium early next month. 

The heavily armed jihadists attacked the national stadium, bars and restaurants in the French capital as well as the Bataclan concert venue in a bloodbath claimed IS.

TERRORISM

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.

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