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Is Spain facing a heightened threat from terror attacks?

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Is Spain facing a heightened threat from terror attacks?
Two policemen stand guard in Barcelona. Photo: LLUIS GENE/AFP.

Following reports from Spain's security council about an increased terror threat and reinforcement measures put in place during Semana Santa celebrations, is Spain facing a heightened terror threat?

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The Spanish government has reinforced anti-terror protocols during the Easter period but kept its terror threat at level 4 (out of 5) for now, amid growing security concerns across the continent following a deadly terror attack in Moscow last week.

Several countries in Europe have stepped up their safety measures and threat levels. Spain's northern neighbours France raised its terror threat level after the Moscow attack, and Italian authorities agreed on Monday to increase anti-terrorism monitoring ahead of the Easter holidays, with more surveillance to be carried out at popular tourist spots and at "sensitive sites".

READ ALSO: Terror alerts: Should I be worried about travelling to Italy?

Spain's Ministry of the Interior also recently decided to reinforce anti-terror measures ahead of Easter celebrations, bolstering its 'Anti-terrorism Prevention, Protection and Response Plan', which remains at level 4. This decision was taken before the Moscow attack.

According to a press release from the government, the beefed up security measures are "directed at [the] surveillance and protection of places, spaces and means of transport, religious, leisure or recreational events in general where a high concentration of people is foreseeable, as well as the surveillance and protection of the strategic objectives that are essential for the normal functioning of citizen activity."

These measures are in effect throughout the country between March 22nd-April 2nd, 2024. Spain has remained at level 4 threat since 2015. A full breakdown of Spain's anti-terror threat levels can be found here on the Interior Ministry website.

Spain has five threat levels:

Level 1: Low
Level 2: Moderate
Level 3: Medium
Level 4: High
Level 5: Very high

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Though the government is yet to raise the threat level to level 5, Spain remains on high alert for terror attacks. The bolstering of anti-terror measures during Easter events follows a recent meeting of Spain's National Security Council (CSN) with government ministers to approve security reports and outline new anti-terror strategies.

Among the threats highlighted, which are outlined here on the National Security Council website, were the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine and the increased security threats they pose to Spain. The war in Gaza, the Council states, presents "a real and direct risk" of an increase in "the terrorist threat, violent extremism and the emergence of new movements that promote a radical and violent ideology."

READ ALSO: 20 years since the deadliest terror attacks in Spain's history

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is also "a potential catalyst for terrorism" as it "has led to an increase in the circulation of arms and explosives [in Europe], as well as the participation in the war of volunteer fighters of other nationalities".

However, despite the ongoing conflicts Islamic terrorism remains the greatest threat to Spanish security. "The repeated dismantling of the leaderships of Daesh and Al Qaeda has not succeeded in eliminating these groups, which act in a more decentralised manner than in previous years," the report states.

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During the period covered by the previous security strategy (2019-2023) "more than 110 [security] operations related to terrorism activities have been carried out," more than 90 of which were linked to jihadist terrorism, the document details. Just 5 percent were linked to domestic terrorism.

Spanish police on Tuesday arrested a man in Barcelona with ties to international jihadis on suspicion of "intensive efforts to encourage terrorism" online.

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