Spanish police raid Barcelona cell suspected of plotting attack

In this Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 file photo, Catalan police officers secure the area where a van driven by the attacker stopped in Barcelona, Spain. (AP)
Updated 15 January 2019
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Spanish police raid Barcelona cell suspected of plotting attack

  • Officers arrested 18 people in Barcelona and Igualada as part of the raid

BARCELONA: Spanish police mounted a counter-terrorism operation in Barcelona and a nearby city on Tuesday against an alleged militant Islamist cell suspected of plotting an attack, local officials said.
Officers arrested 18 people in Barcelona and Igualada, 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the Catalan capital, as part of the raid, Catalonia's Mossos d'Esquadra police said in a statement.
Five suspects were arrested for terrorism offences while the rest allegedly committed theft, drug trafficking and other crimes to help support the cell's activities.
The five "were in an advanced process of radicalisation with the aim to attack," the statement said.
"The group defended the doctrine and actions of the jihadist movement and they consumed a significant amount of publications that advocated the theses of Daesh," it added, using the Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State group.
The authorities said the suspects were constantly under surveillance and there was never any danger to the public.
The suspects "intended to carry out an attack", but police work "ensured that at no moment did they have the capacity to carry out these actions," Catalan regional interior minister Miquel Buch said.
More than 100 officers were taking part in the "counter-terrorism operation" launched by the Catalan police force at 6:00 am (0500 GMT), the Mossos said on Twitter.
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 had been investigating the suspected cell since mid-2017.
One of the suspects was arrested in the Catalan town of Igualada while the rest were detained in Barcelona.
The five people arrested for terrorism offences are aged 33-44. Three are from Algeria, while the others are from Libya and Iraq.
The rest of the suspects had Algerian, Spanish, Egyptian, Moroccan, Lebanese and Iraqi citizenship.
Barcelona, Spain's most visited city, was on alert last month after the US State Department warned of the risk of a terrorist attack in Spain's second-largest city over Christmas.
Spanish media reported at the time that the authorities were looking for a Moroccan man with a licence to drive buses who could try to drive a bus or other large vehicle into crowds in Barcelona.
On August 17, 2017, a van rammed crowds on Barcelona's Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 14 people and injuring more than 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 Daesh group claimed responsibility for the attack, Spain's worst since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 when 191 people died and more than 1,800 were injured.
Spain has had its terrorist alert at the second-highest level since 2015.
Catalonia has a long history of Islamist militant activity. A member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) was uncovered in the region in 1995.
Mohammed Atta, who flew a passenger plane into a tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in New York, spent time in Catalonia shortly before the attacks.
In 2008, a plot targeting Barcelona's metro system was foiled when it was in its advanced stages.
In a separate operation, police arrested a 27-year-old Moroccan national in the southern province of Malaga who allegedly used several social network profiles to express his allegiance to the Daesh group.


Alabama newspaper at center of KKK outrage gets black female editor

In this Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 photo, Goodloe Sutton, publisher of the Democrat-Reporter newspaper, speaks during an interview at the newspaper's office in Linden, Ala. (AP)
Updated 5 min 32 sec ago
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Alabama newspaper at center of KKK outrage gets black female editor

  • Sutton and his wife, Jean, won acclaim in the 1990s for a series of articles in the Democrat-Reporter that detailed corruption in their local sheriff’s department

NEW YORK: A small town Alabama newspaper that drew condemnation for an editorial this month calling for the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” has named an African-American woman as its new editor and publisher, the paper said in a statement.
Elecia R. Dexter on Friday took the reins of the weekly Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, from Goodloe Sutton, 79, the longtime owner of the paper who wrote the incendiary editorial that brought sharp rebukes from elected officials in the state and the public.
“Ms. Dexter is coming in at a pivotal time for the newspaper and you may have full confidence in her ability to handle these challenging times,” the statement said. It is unclear whether Sutton remains the owner of the paper.
Dexter has “strong roots and a rich history” in the area, and she will continue the paper’s long journalistic tradition while moving it in a new direction, according to the release.
Sutton, who has led the publication for the past 50 years, told the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper last week he had written the editorial which called for a return of the KKK and railed against Democrats.
The KKK was a white supremacist group that terrorized blacks in the US South and later targeted other minority groups, following the Civil War and the emancipation of African-American slaves.
“Good riddance Goodloe,” US Senator Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat, tweeted in response to the news of Sutton stepping down. “His dangerous views do not represent Alabama or the small-town papers in Alabama that do great work every day.”
Sutton and his wife, Jean, won acclaim in the 1990s for a series of articles in the Democrat-Reporter that detailed corruption in their local sheriff’s department.
Jean Sutton died in 2003 from cancer, according to her obituary.
The circulation of the Democrat-Reporter, which is more than 100 years old and does not publish online, was about 3,000 in 2015, according to a report that year in the Montgomery-Advertiser.