According to Spanish newspaper Público, the Ripoll imam who masterminded the 2017 terror outrage was on the payroll of Spain’s CNI (National Intelligence Centre) as an informer right until the day of the attacks and the CNI was aware of the activities of the terror cell he led. Público has published an email containing messages that were exchanged two months before the attacks on 17 August 2017 and the newspaper claims that Abdelbaki es-Satty’s intelligence file was not deleted from the CNI’s central records until the morning after the massacre. The Spanish online daily has also published a report detailing a trip which the terrorists took at the end of 2016 in order to purchase a used vehicle. Público claims that this proves Spain’s intelligence service was monitoring the terrorist cell’s movements.
The Madrid newspaper reports that the imam and his CNI handler used to communicate by means of an email “dead drop”, the same method that was employed by the members of the terror cell to exchange messages and had previously been used by other groups taken down elsewhere in Europe. With this system an ordinary email account is set up with each member of the group sharing the same user name and password. When they wish to communicate with one another, they draft an email message, but do not send it. Instead, it is saved in the drafts folder for everyone in the cell to read. Afterwards it is deleted, leaving no trace.
According to Público, which has announced it will publish further details of their investigation in the coming hours, this dead drop mailbox was used by Es-Satty and his CNI handler to communicate with each other and it was still active at least two months ahead of the terror attack on La Rambla. The access codes for the dead drop were allegedly found among the rubble of the Alcanar safe house that was destroyed when the device which the terrorists were readying detonated prematurely. Público stresses that Spanish intelligence officers monitored the comings and goings of the three members of the Ripoll cell —Mohamed Hychami, Youssef Aalla and Younes Abouyaaqoub— as they travelled to Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium.