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CRIME

Spain detains suspect over letter bombs sent to PM, Ukraine embassy

Spanish police have arrested a man suspected of being behind a recent letter bombing campaign that targeted the prime minister and the Ukrainian embassy, the interior ministry said Wednesday.

Spain detains suspect over letter bombs sent to PM, Ukraine embassy
Miranda de Ebro in Spain where letter bomb suspect was arrested. Photo: Zarateman / WikiCommons

A 74-year-old Spanish citizen was arrested in Miranda de Ebro in northern Spain and the ministry said police were searching the man’s home.

Nobody was killed by the six letter bombs sent in late November and early December to various sites in Spain, but an employee of the Ukrainian embassy was lightly injured while opening one of the packages.

Among the sites targeted was the official residence of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s defence ministry and an air base near Madrid from where weapons donated by Spain are sent to Ukraine.

Kyiv ramped up security at its embassies abroad after the embassy in Madrid was targeted by a letter bomb.

The arrest comes after the New York Times reported Sunday that Russian
military intelligence officers had “directed” associates of a white supremacist militant group based in Russia to carry out the campaign in Spain.

US officials told the newspaper that the Russian officers who directed the campaign appeared intent on “keeping European governments off guard” and “may be testing out proxy groups in the event Moscow decides to escalate a conflict”.

Investigators suspect the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), a radical group that has members and associates across Europe, of being behind the letter bomb campaign.

The group, which is designated a global terrorist organisation by the United States, is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

“Important members of the group have been in Spain, and the police there have tracked its ties with far-right Spanish organisations,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper based its report on anonymous “US and allied officials”.

Terrorist methods

According to Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, RIM “maintains contacts with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups across Europe”.

“The group has provided paramilitary training to Russian nationals and members of like-minded organisations from other countries at its facilities in St. Petersburg,” it added.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, had appeared to blame Russia for the letter bomb at its embassy.

“We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,” he said during an interview with Spanish public television on November 30th just hours after the letter exploded.

Russia’s embassy to Spain condemned the letter bomb campaign. “Any threat or terrorist act, especially those that target a diplomatic mission, is to be totally condemned,” it said in a tweet at the time.

Spain’s National Court had opened an investigation for “terrorism” over the letter bombing campaign.

In addition to sending arms to help Ukraine after Russia sent troops into the country in February last year, Spain is also training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme and providing humanitarian aid.

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CRIME

Spain church attack suspect to undergo psychiatric testing

The Moroccan suspect held in connection with a machete attack on two Spanish churches, killing a verger and badly injuring a priest, will undergo psychiatric testing, a court said Tuesday.

Spain church attack suspect to undergo psychiatric testing

The case is being handled by the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s top criminal court, with the judge in charge asking that “two doctors conduct a psychiatric evaluation of the suspect”.

The suspect, 25-year-old Yassine Kanjaa, was arrested at the scene after the attacks on two churches in the southern town of Algeciras last week.

The Audiencia Nacional said the psychiatric evaluation, which will be carried out by doctors from the court’s forensic department, would provide “information about the legal responsibility” of the “presumed jihadist”.

Prosecutors have opened a terror probe and, on Monday, the court remanded the suspect in custody without bail on murder and terrorism charges.

During the deadly incident on January 26th, the suspect entered San Isidro church and attacked its priest with a machete, leaving him seriously wounded before entering Nuestra Señora de La Palma.

There he attacked the verger and chased him out of the church where he killed him.

‘Targeted priests and infidels’

Court details released on Monday said the attacker had also injured three other people, including another Moroccan man whom he “considered an infidel” because he had renounced his faith.

It said Kanjaa’s actions could be “qualified as a jihadist attack directed at both priests who profess the Catholic faith, and Muslims who, according to the suspect, don’t follow the Koran”.

The court said the suspect fits the profile of a “self-indoctrinated terrorist who acts individually without direct ties to a specific terror group but operates in the name of jihadist philosophy”.

Last week, Spain’s left-wing government refused to rule out mental illness and the police have described him as “unstable”.

The court said Kanjaa became indoctrinated “rapidly” within the space of up to six weeks, citing witnesses as telling police that just before that, he “was drinking alcohol and smoking hashish”. Then he suddenly started listening “regularly to the Koran on his mobile phone”.

One of Kanjaa’s neighbours told AFP something similar on Friday, saying he had changed radically six weeks ago, growing a beard and wearing a long robe.

Officials have said Kanjaa was served with a deportation order last June but had no prior convictions and was not under surveillance.

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