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

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.

First pilgrims leave under Eyab initiative

Updated 26 min 22 sec ago

First pilgrims leave under Eyab initiative

  • Al-Amoudi toured the exhibition dedicated to welcome Eyab’s beneficiaries

Saudi Minister of Transport and Chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Dr. Nabeel Al-Amoudi, oversaw the departure of the first 

group of pilgrims under the Eyab initiative on Saturday together with GACA President Abdulhadi bin Ahmed Al-Mansouri.

Eyab seeks to improve services provided to pilgrims, with the authority aiming to enrich pilgrims’ experience at the Kingdom’s airports. It is expected to benefit 30,000 pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season.

Al-Amoudi toured the exhibition dedicated to welcome Eyab’s beneficiaries, inspected the services available and received a briefing from the initiative’s officials.

GACA started an experimental implementation of Eyab this year, aimed at pilgrims returning to Indonesia, India and Malaysia through Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport and Madinah’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Airport.