Barcelona Terror Imam’s Familiar Path From Prison to ISIS Soldier

by Patrick Dunleavy
IPT News
August 23, 2017

In the wake of the horrific terror attacks in Barcelona that killed 15 people and injured as many as 120, including 7-year-old Julian Cadman, authorities are trying to understand how a group of young Moroccan men went from football teammates who occasionally smoked marijuana together to radical Islamic terrorists.

The man who has emerged as the leader of the group and most influential in their radicalization is the imam from the Annur Islamic mosque in Ripoll, a small Spanish town near the French border.

Abdelbaki Es Satty was hired by the Annur Islamic Community in 2016. But before that, authorities have learned, he was an inmate in the Spanish prison system, convicted in 2012 for smuggling hashish from Morocco into Spain. People who knew him then said that he was not religious and occasionally smoked marijuana. Then he met several al-Qaida members in prison, including Rachid Aglif. Also known as “The Rabbit,” Aglif was serving an 18-year sentence for his part in the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 190 people and injured more than 1,000.

It was there in prison where Abdelbaki Es Satty was believed to have been radicalized. Authorities from the Annur Islamic mosque said that they were unaware of Es Satty’s criminal history and admitted that they did not properly vet him. They simply examined his knowledge of the Quran and felt that was sufficient.

They also seemed unaware that Es Satty became known to counterterrorism officials during an investigation into radical Islamic influences in the small seaside towns surrounding Barcelona. The investigation, dubbed “Operation Jackal,” resulted in the arrest and conviction of five radical Islamists for attempting to send young men to Iraq to fight alongside ISIS.

So, two important themes in understanding radical Islamic terrorists are surfacing again, prison radicalization and someone “known to authorities.” There is a third: Immigration. Following his release from prison, Spanish authorities attempted to deport Es Satty back to Morocco. An order for his expulsion from Spain was issued in April 2014 citing his criminal history as a narcotics trafficker. Spanish immigration law subjects any foreign national who is sentenced to a year or more in prison to deportation.

Es Satty argued that deportation violated his human rights and won an appeal.

He then was granted asylum, which gave him the right to travel throughout the European Union. He used this privilege to make several trips to Belgium, spending three months in a Brussels suburb called Vilvoorde in early 2016. That town has seen its share of radical Islamic influences, with as many as 30 young men leaving to fightwith ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Just after Es Satty left Vilvoorde, two coordinated terrorist attacks took place in Brussels that left as many as 35 dead and 300 injured. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Abdelbaki Es Satty became an imam at the Ripoll mosque after returning from Belgium and began to draw young men to the jihadi cause. The process took at least a year. Small groups met in a van, and sometimes in Es Satty’s sixth-floor apartment. When group members attended the local mosque, they took precautions to mask both their radical beliefs and their intimate relationship with each other.

Two months before last week’s the attacks, Es Satty told the mosque he was returning to Morocco.

In fact, Es Satty went to a house in Alcanar, a town 120 miles south of Barcelona. There, along with several others, he began to construct improvised explosive devices to be placed in vehicles as car bombs. They used gas canisters and a highly explosive substance made from acetone and hydrogen peroxide known as TATP.

This was the same substance that was used in the Brussels attacks.

One week ago, an explosion rocked Alcanar, destroying the house where the bombs were being built. Authorities first thought it was the result of a gas leak but, upon investigation, forensic trace evidence of TATP was found. Several charred bodies also were found in the house.

A lone survivor, Mohamed Houli Chemlal, was taken in to custody by police. Authorities believe Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty was killed in the explosion.

It was a fitting conclusion for someone whose life traversed the path from common criminal to radicalized inmate to a religious leader who deceived the minds of the young men of Ripoll.

Prison radicalization, open borders, lax immigration laws and the all-too-familiar case of a terrorist previously “known to authorities” have come to the surface once again immediately following a terror attack.

At some point, authorities must focus on these three areas and come up with a strategy to tighten the loopholes that allow radical Islamic terrorists to thrive.

With ISIS’s continued losses in Syria and Iraq, it has now turned its attention and remaining assets toward the West, inspiring and exhorting people to attack in their home countries. They really don’t care how many plots are thwarted or how many young lives are wasted. Death is their goal.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for these latest attacks and has hailed the Barcelona terrorists as soldiers of the Islamic State and “Caliphate soldiers in Spain.”

If that is so then we must treat them as such – enemy combatants whether captured or killed.

Anything less is both foolish and dangerous.

Barcelona Terror Cell Originally Planned to Target Sagrada Familia Cathedral With Massive Truck Bomb

(Wikimedia Commons)

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Aug. 20, 2017:

The terror cell that struck Barcelona on Thursday originally intended to target the city’s famed Sagrada Familia cathedral with a massive truck bomb, as investigators have revealed they’ve discovered 120 gas canisters that are believed to have been intended for the attack.

Meanwhile, the names and stories of the victims killed in the terror attack continue to be revealed, including confirmation earlier today that 7-year-old Australian boy Julian Cadman was among those murdered.

Investigators are focusing on the role of a Moroccan imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to be the brains behind the terror cell and served in the mosque attended by the other terror cell members.

Meanwhile, a manhunt for one of the remaining cell members who may have been behind the wheel of the van that drove through the Las Ramblas shopping district has now spread to France.

Regarding the targeting of the Sagrada Familia, The Local reported:

Police believe that the jihadist cell responsible for the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that left 14 dead and more than 100 injured were originally planning something much bigger involving Barcelona’s most emblematic tourist sites.

The terrorists planned to inflict as much carnage as possible by driving vans packed with explosives into three of the city’s busiest tourist areas, according to a report in  Spanish online newspaper El Español on Saturday.

The newspaper cites police sources with information that one of the targets was Gaudi’s as yet unfinished masterpiece, the towering basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

As the most visited monument in Spain attracting more than four million visitors last year, the Catholic site is thronged with tourist crowds with queues of dozens of people snaking across the forecourt to gain entry, while thousands more linger outside to admire its spires.

Reports said that Las Ramblas was the second objective and that the busy port area, which each day welcomes hundreds of visitors disembarking from cruise ships, may have been the third target.

The plans of the terror cell were apparently derailed after the explosion Wednesday of the safe house in Alcanar an hour south of Barcelona, where the terrorists were apparently building the vehicle bombs and where they had stored the gas canisters and the explosive TATP.

One of those killed in that blast is believed to be imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, who has become the one of the primary subjects of the investigation.

El Pais reported earlier today:

Two months ago, Abdelbaki told several acquaintances he was giving up his duties as an imam and moving to Morocco. A new imam was not named – all such changes must be communicated to the regional government – and since then worshippers with the Annour community have been leading their own prayers.

The strange disappearance of the imam coincides with the period during which the terrorist cell began to prepare an attack, or a number of attacks, involving a large explosive device in Barcelona. Although the timeline is not firmly established, the head of the Mossos d’Esquadra, Josep Lluís Trapero, explained the group had spent a “certain length of time” on those preparations […]

The role of the religious leader in the attacks is still to be clarified – not just in terms of the radicalization of cell members but also in terms of logistical preparation. “We can’t compromise evidence or leads, or give unreliable information,” said Mossos d’Esquadra spokesperson Albert Oliva on Saturday, adding that police had carried out nine searches in Ripoll alone that day.

Whether the members of the cell were radicalized by Abdelbaki or in another way, they quickly become ready and able to act. None of them had previous convictions for terrorism crimes nor did they feature on police databases. “They are very young,” stressed Catalan regional police chief Trapero.

Es Satty reportedly had contact with members of the terror cell that conducted the March 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 193 — still the largest Islamic terror attack in modern European history.

French authorities are now on alert as they believe that one of the remaining terror cell members still at large may have crossed over into France.

Read more

Also see:

Vehicular Jihad Comes to Barcelona

Meanwhile, on CNN, the denial and willful ignorance continue.

Front Page Magazine, by Robert Spencer, Aug. 18, 2017:

In Spain Thursday, a man drove a truck into a crowd at Barcelona’s popular Costa Dorada area, killing at least 13 and injuring 100. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked, “There will be questions about copycats. Questions, if what happened in Barcelona, was at all, at all, a copycat version of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

No, Wolf, it was a phenomenon with which you and your CNN colleagues have only a glancing familiarity: Islamic jihad. Of course Wolf Blitzer immediately reached for a connection with Charlottesville, because he most likely doesn’t believe that there are Islamic jihadis at all, just mentally ill lone wolves driven to violence by “Islamophobia.” Jihad doesn’t fit his network’s narrative. And vehicular jihad? Wolf has never heard of such a thing.

Last June, the Islamic State published a poster depicting an SUV driving over a heap of skulls and bearing the legend “Run Over Them Without Mercy.”

And the Islamic State issued this call in September 2014:

So O muwahhid, do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons, and troops of the tawaghit. Strike their police, security, and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Destroy their beds. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be….If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him….

Many Muslims in the West have heeded this call. The man who rented the van used in the Barcelona attack was a Muslim from Morocco named Driss Oukabier, who was arrested, while one of his apparent accomplices was killed in a gun battle with police. This could have been just one part of a much larger jihad plot, as Spanish police now believe that a massive explosion in a house in Alcanar, 120 miles south of Barcelona, was also linked to the Barcelona jihad plotters.

There have been many other vehicular jihad attacks. Just last week in France, a Muslim named Hamou Bachirhit six French soldiers with his car in Levallois-Perret, where the headquarters of the DGSI (General Directorate for Internal Security), the country’s primary counter-terrorism intelligence agency, are located. In June, a Muslim drove his car into a crowd on the London Bridge and then jumped out and started stabbing people. We have seen several other vehicular jihadis get out of the car after they plowed into pedestrians, and start stabbing people. In June 2015, a Muslim in Austria drove his car into a crowd, killing three, and then got out and stabbed passersby. Then in November 2016, a Muslim student at Ohio State University named Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove his car into a crowd, then got out and stabbed several others.

There have been many others in 2016 and this year: in Nice, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, in Paris, and elsewhere. Yet on CNN and elsewhere in the establishment media, no analysts have connected the dots between these jihad attacks, which have an obvious connection with one another in sharing the same motivating ideology and the same goal. But Wolf Blitzer readily sees a wholly imaginary connection between Charlottesville (in which a neo-Nazi was imitating jihadis, not the other way around) and Barcelona, because he wishes to exaggerate the importance and influence of white supremacists, while minimizing the magnitude of the jihad threat.

And so it goes in the daily news of the contemporary West: another jihad massacre, and another reason to turn off CNN.

Also see:

Latest Updates on the Barcelona Terror Attack

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Aug. 17, 2017:

Spain has declared three days of national mourning following today’s terror attack in Barcelona that killed 14 and wounded more than 100.

Here are the latest updates:

  • Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy said the attack was “jihadi terrorism.”
  • A few hours ago, Spanish police killed 5 suspected terrorists in Cambrils, 120km south of Barcelona. They were reportedly wearing fake explosives and believed to be plotting a follow-up attack. Six civilians and one police officer were injured.
  • Two suspects are under arrest but neither is believed to be the driver of the van who ran down the pedestrians in the Las Ramblas shopping district popular with tourists. One is from Morocco, the other from Melilla — a Spanish enclave across the Strait of Gibraltar.
  • Reports reveal that victims of the attack come from 34 different countries. At least one fatality has been confirmed to be a Belgian tourist according to Belgium’s Foreign Ministry. The only named victim so far is Italian, Bruno Gulotta.
  • One of the terrorists, Moussa Oukabir, had posted on social media: “Kill all the infidels and leave only Muslims.” Oukabir is believed to be the driver of the van.
  • His brother, Driss Oukabir, claims that Moussa stole his identity to rent the vans and that he wasn’t involved.
  • The explosion at a house yesterday in Alcanar which killed two is believed to be related to the attack. It was originally attributed to a gas line explosion, but police are saying the house was being used as an IED factory. Twenty-plus gas canisters were found at the scene. The premature explosion may have prompted the terror cell to act earlier than planned. Two VBIEDs could have killed considerably more.
  • ISIS’ Amaq news agency claimed its “soldiers” committed the attack. They are encouraging more vehicle attacks via their official social media channels.
  • The CIA had reportedly told Spanish police that Las Ramblas was a likely terror target two months ago.
  • Fog of war: Early reports that the terrorists had taken hostages in a restaurant proved to be false. A driver who drove through a police checkpoint injuring two police officers before being shot and killed is not believed to be involved in the terror attack.

Barcelona terror attack: Several injured after white van plows into plaza

Pictured: What is thought to be the van that knocked over pedestrians in the area
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4799836/People-hurt-van-crashes-pedestrians-Barcelona.html#ixzz4q1uCnZyv

Fox News, Aug. 17, 2017:

DEVELOPING: Several people were injured after a white van rammed into dozens of people in the historic Las Ramblas district of Barcelona Thursday in what local police described as a terror attack.

The incident took place on Las Ramblas of Barcelona, the famous main pedestrian walk way that crosses the city. Police described the incident on Twitter as a “massive crash.”

In a photograph shown by public broadcaster RTVE, three people were lying on the ground in the street and were apparently being helped by police and others.

“It was real chaos, people started running, screaming. There was a loud bang,” eyewitness Ethan Spibey told Sky News.

Catalan emergency services said people should not go to the area around Placa Catalunya, according to Reuters.

Witnesses told newspaper El Pais the driver ran over several people on the walk way, and there were people lying on the ground injuries.

El Pais, citing a police source, said the driver of the van fled the scene after the crash

One witness said the van “has trampled people while crossing the traffic light.”

Police cordoned off the broad street and shut down its stores. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of the emergency services. A helicopter hovered over the scene.

Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the center of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrianized path in the center of the street, but cars can travel on either side.

***

Also see:

  • 13 dead and dozens hurt as van drives into crowds of people in Barcelona amid reports of gunshots nearby
  • Emergency services have rushed to the scene near the Las Ramblas tourist area as people urged to stay away
  • The driver of the van is being hunted as he fled after ploughing into pedestrians outside a kosher restaurant
  • Also being reported that two gunmen have taken hostages at a bar in the city centre amid carnage in the city
  • Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said he is in contact with the emergency services at the scene 
  • Harrowing footage shows dozens of bodies lying on the pavement as armed police rush to secure the area 
  • Police are said to be negotiating with two gunmen who have taken hostages in a Turkish restaurant  
  • Did you see what happened in Barcelona, or do you know someone who did? Get in touch by emailing abe.hawken@mailonline.co.uk or calling 0203 615 3908