A half a million strong anti-terror march was held in Barcelona 26 August 2017. King Felipe VI of Spain and Muslim groups, in the photo, as well as leading political leaders and members
of the Catalan security forces were in the rally


by Jack Wright


Could the Barcelona terror attack have been prevented?

Looks like it. Here’s why.

In 2002 Moroccan Abdelbaki Es Satty arrived in Spain. He died here on 16 August 2017, in the accidental explosion of gas in Alcanar, Tarragona, a Catalan province. He was 44.

In 2015 he was employed as imam at a mosque in Ripoll, in the Catalan province of Girona, despite being an ex-convict who served a four-year jail term in 2010 for drug smuggling. While in prison he became prayer coordinator. That was how he met Rachid Aglif, a Moroccan ring leader of the 2004 coordinated terror bombing of commuter trains in Madrid. Death toll: 193. Injured: 1,700.  They ended up having a “special relationship” whereby Es Satty was brainwashed by Aglif, according to some reports.

The Spanish government was going to deport Es Satty after he was released from prison but the judge of the Litigious Administrative Court that had jurisdiction over the case annulled the deportation on the grounds of  his “evident effort to get integrated into the Spanish society” and because he didn’t pose “real and sufficiently serious threat to security and public order.”

Operation Chacal: National Police raid terror cell in Ceuta

Es Satty had even been linked to the terror cell in Ceuta, a Spanish city that bordered Morocco. These terrorists were radicalized and sent out to commit attacks anywhere in the West and then commit suicide later if need be. The Ceuta cell also recruited jihadist combatants for the Syria-Iraq conflict. The cell was disbanded and its members were arrested by Spain’s Policia Nacional in January 2015 under Operation Chacal.

In June of that year, Es Satty suddenly quit the mosque in Ripoll. For three months in early 2016, he lived in Belgium. He tried to land a job as a preacher at a mosque in Diegem which is ten kilometers from Brussels.  But the Islamic community in that little town didn’t trust him. According to the mayor of nearby Villvoorde, Hans Bonte, the people thought he was a strange person; Es Satty told the imam of Diegem that he left Spain because he had no future there and claimed he was an imam but had no papers to prove it. He wasn’t forthcoming when asked if he had a criminal record.

Es Satty, according to an official who works at de-radicalization in Belgium, was “radicalized and polarizing.”

Bonte asserts that an official of the Vilvoorde police force warned an official of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the police of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, by email about Es Satty in March 2016. (Es Satty also lived in Vilvoorde.) The Catalan official replied on the same day he received the email saying Es Satty “wasn’t known” to the authorities in Catalonia. And that was about it.

The Mossos de Esquadra has acknowledged that there had indeed been an “informal contact” between the two local officials. But because the contact (ie., the email) didn’t go through proper channels it didn’t exist officially and was therefore not shared with the Spanish Ministry of Interior. The Mossos was dismissive of Es Satty. He wasn’t investigated.

This then was Missed Opportunity Number 1.

Missed Opportunity Number 2

Badge of the Mossos d’Esquadra

An explosion in Alcanar that could be heard several kilometers away from the scene occurred sometime after 11.00 PM on 16 August, just 18 hours before the terror attack in La Rambla, Barcelona. The initial conclusion of the Mossos d’Esquadra when they came to the ruins of the abandoned house destroyed by the explosion was that the blast was the result of accidental gas explosion. The Mossos had concluded that the house was being used to “cook cocaine” and nothing in those crucial hours immediately following the explosion would convince them otherwise. The extraordinary number of gas canisters (120) in the house didn’t tell them much. Not even when the judge who came for the removal of the body of the man who was killed in the blast (it turned out to be that of Es Hatty) said there was more there than met the eye.

The Guardia Civil, Spain’s military police, had asked to participate in the investigation of the blast because “the first hours” were crucial. Declaring it was just “routine explosion”, the Mossos then slammed the door in the face of the Guardia Civil.

The fortuitous gas explosion in Alcanar saved the awesome Sagrada Familia Church from the bombs of the terrorists

Now everyone knows that the house was used by the terrorist cell of 12 jihadists as their base of operation and where they were preparing powerful explosives to destroy iconic monuments in Barcelona. Target Nº 1: Gaudi’s emblematic.

After the explosion, the terrorists – young men believed to have been radicalized by Abdelbaki Es Satty, and taught by the imam to “lead a double life”, acting just like the boys next door while planning to murder “the enemies of Islam” – had to make do with Plan B, the less spectacular method of plowing a vehicle into innocent people in the streets.

At around 5:30 PM on 17 August  Younes Abouyaaqoub drove to La Rambla for the massacre.

Van instead of bombs

Eighteen hours would have been sufficient for the security forces to thwart the deadly attack. If other additional hypotheses had been considered, like the possibility that the house was being used as a terror factory, and acted upon accordingly, instead of sticking with an astounding one-track mind that it was a cocaine factory, the terrorists’ Plan B could have met with a formidable counter-terror operation. Not much time to mount it but enough to send the terrorists, who’d just lost their mentor, taking cover in disarray.

La Rambla could have been spared.



Featured image/Pool Moncloa-Diego Crespo, cropped
Operation Chacal/Police photo
Badge/ElGlobetrotte, CC BY-SA3.0

Sagrada Familia/German Ramos, PD
Terror van, Police photo

About Jack
Jack has been with Guidepost for more than a decade now and sees no end to his association with The Dean. He travels around with his ubiquitous laptop, ready to pound it when a story hits him. He loves writing and doesn’t shy away from controversy; he could be mordant in his articles.
Jack has a bachelor’s degree with Political Science for major.