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TERRORISM

Debunked: No, Spain hasn’t just raised the terror alert due to new threat

Spain's Interior Ministry has denied that Spain has raised its terror alert level amid fears of an imminent attack.

Debunked: No, Spain hasn’t just raised the terror alert due to new threat
A policeman outside Seville's Alcazar. Photo: AFP
You may have seen headlines in the British and Irish press this week warning tourists that Spain has “raised” its terror alert level to ‘severe’ and is boosting police presence at holiday hotspots.

 

 

Only one of these ‘facts’ is true but as we will explain here, isn’t as alarming as it sounds.  The other – that Spain has raised its terror alert – is fake news as some would say.

This summer, as it has in previous summers, Spain’s Interior Ministry announced its security plans to keep holiday hotspots around Spain safe from the general threat of terrorism.

During the busy summer months, teams from the National Police and Guardia Civil forces  – numbering in excess of 40,000 officers – will be present in those areas saturated by tourists in a bid to prevent potential terror attacks.

This is called ‘Operacion Verano’ – Operation Summer –  and the details were outlined in a press release published on June 11th by the Interior Ministry.

According to the statement, extra security will be sent to areas that see increased numbers of tourists during the summer months, at tourist sites, beaches, transport hubs and festivals in Andalucia,  Asturias, Galicia, Cantabria, Madrid, Murcia,  the Canary Islands, the Balearics and Valencia.

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File photo of police arresting jihadist suspect. Photo: AFP

In total, 22,700 national police and 22,000 civil guards will form the security contingent between July 1st and August 31st, although the period is extended until September 30 on the Balearic Islands. 

Spain's Interior insists the aim this year, as in previous years, is to 'take full action to obtain information in order to prevent terrorist acts', while 'reinforcing security measures at events and places that will attract a large number of people'.

This information led to headlines in the British and Irish press this week that suggested Spain was facing a “new terror threat”, an idea that was dismissed by sources at the Interior Ministry.

These articles are “a biased and tabloid interpretation of an instruction issued by the Secretary of State for Security last week,” an interior ministry source told The Local.

“The instruction is the same that is dictated every summer, it is called Operation Summer, and its objective, among others, is safety in summer, especially in areas of great tourist influx.

“It is what is done every summer, and it has nothing to do with alleged terrorist threats, which are hoaxes that are repeated from time to time.”

The ministry insisted that the number of officers deployed in 2019 will in fact be the same as last summer.

Spain has NOT changed its terror threat level since June 2015, when ISIS-inspired attackers went on a gun rampage killing 38 tourists at a beach resort near Sousse in Tunisia.

“There has been no change in the level of terror threat since that time,” confirmed the Interior Ministry source.

Since that time Spain has maintained Level 4 of a possible 5, even  in the aftermath of the Barcelona attack on August 17th, 2017 when a van rammed crowds on Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 14 people and injuring over 130 others. 

Since 2012 and up to April this year, Spanish forces have carried out 181 distinct operation against terror cells and detained 334 suspected terrorists.

READ MORE: Who are Spain's jihadists?

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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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