On Wednesday Catalonia’s Sindicat de Mossos d’Esquadra (SME, a Catalan Police trade union) issued a press release urging “not to smear” the good work of the Catalan Police force in the recent terrorist attacks, following criticisms by Spanish police trade unions, who questioned the Mossos’ decision not to alert Spain’s bomb disposal squads (Tedax) after the blast that destroyed a home in Alcanar. Ramón Cosío, a spokesman for the Spanish police’s Sindicato Unificado (SUP) argued that Catalonia’s Mossos “excluded from the investigation people that could have made a valuable contribution”. Yesterday the SUP released a statement on the matter, together with the Guardia Civil’s Associación Unificada (AUGC).
In today’s press release, the Catalan police union argues that “it is very unfair to hear or read certain comments”. They complain that “all law enforcement officers in Catalonia have worked very hard and very long hours, taking personal risks. It’s simply not fair to claim that there was a political agenda or that we meant to steal the limelight”. Another Catalan police union, USPAC, also praised the work of the Mossos d’Esquadra and referred to the statement by the Spanish police unions as uncalled for and “rather contemptible”. “Why did Spain not inform the Catalan police about the Ripoll imam’s record? Why have we been denied access to Europe’s anti-terror information all these years?”, wondered the USPAC.
Yesterday the SUP and the AUGC implied in their statement that the Catalan police had no idea that the Ripoll imam who allegedly instigated the attacks, Abdelbaki es Satty, had been targeted in an anti-terror operation by Spanish police in 2007. The Spanish police unions claimed that Spain’s law enforcement agencies had failed to share with Catalan police that Es Satty was a “disciple” of one of the main leaders of the cell that was arrested in Vilanova i la Geltrú. Even though the information was ten years old, Cosío believes that the Catalan police would have kept watch on the Ripoll imam, if they had known that his message was close to “extreme radicalism”. Still, the SUP stressed that the Mossos never informed Spain’s Policía Nacional “about the arrival of a new imam” at the Ripoll mosque and that is why they were “unaware of his background”.
Information about the Alcanar blast
On Wednesday Jordi Turull, the Catalan government’s spokesman and Minister for the Presidency, claimed on Radio Nacional de España (RNE) that the details of the attacks last week were shared with Spain’s Guardia Civil “from the word go”. “When a home blew up in Alcanar, the Mossos launched a probe and their bomb disposal squad was deployed. As soon as we learnt that the blast had something to do with the terror attacks, we alerted the Guardia Civil", said Turull. “I was present during the meeting where the decision was made to inform all law enforcement agencies”, the minister emphasised, “whereas the unions were not”. The Mossos’ initial account of the Alcanar blast claimed that a gas leak from canisters had likely caused the explosion. Then came a second, fortuitous blast at 5 pm and that is when they realised that the house had been used for assembling explosive devices.
The Mossos’ SME remarked that “cooperation between the various agencies is crucial”. “Obviously, the police are expected to notify any findings to the relevant judge”. They wrapped up their statement by stressing that “any claims that the attacks could have been averted are reckless, foolish and disrespectful” towards the officers who have been working to detain the terrorist cell and to assist the victims, “officers whose work has received international praise”. In contrast, the Spanish police unions yesterday stated that “it is obvious that the [inter-agency] cooperation agreements were flagrantly ignored and that liaison channels did not work properly”. They went on to say that the anti-terror units of both Spanish agencies had been “sidelined” in the probe that followed the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, with a view to sending an international message: there is “a Catalan state and it is self-sufficient”. As an example of this, Cosío mentioned how the Tedax’s experience would have been key because studying a bomb blast is not a “daily occurrence”.