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TERRORISM

Spanish police raid Barcelona cell suspected of plotting terror attack

Spanish police launched a counter-terrorism operation in Barcelona and a nearby city on Tuesday against a cell suspected of plotting an attack, a police spokesman said.

Spanish police raid Barcelona cell suspected of plotting terror attack

Two people had been arrested in Barcelona and Igualada, 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the Catalan capital, as part of the raid, the spokesman for Catalonia's police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, told AFP. Further arrests were expected, he added.

“The goal (of the cell) was to attack but we are still investigating which places may have been targeted,” the spokesman said.   

Over 100 officers were taking part in the “counter-terrorism operation” launched by the Catalan  police force at six am (0500 GMT), the Mossos said on Twitter.

Police stormed five properties in Barcelona and a sixth in Igualada as part of the operation.

Armed officers, wearing black ski masks, stood guard outside a building in central Barcelona as boxes and bags were removed from a flat, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

The operation was ordered by Spain's High Court, which is charged with terrorism investigations, and it is focused on “the crimes of terrorism, public health offences and organised crime”, the Mossos said.

Barcelona was on alert last month after the US State Department warned off the risk of a terrorist attack in Spain's second-largest city over Christmas.   

On August 17, 2017, a van rammed crowds on Barcelona's Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 14 people and injuring over 130 others.   

The 22-year-old Moroccan driver then stole a car after killing the driver and fled.

Several hours later five of his accomplices mowed down pedestrians on the promenade of the seaside resort of Cambrils, south of Barcelona, before stabbing a woman to death.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, Spain's deadliest in over a decade.

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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