Montoto: Barcelona was threatened by Al-Qaeda and Daesh

An interview with Jofre Montoto, a security analyst and expert in jihadi terrorism

One of Catalonia’s top security experts answers the questions that many were asking themselves yesterday.

Was Barcelona city a known ISIS target?

Yes. Barcelona had received threats from both Al-Qaeda and Daesh in their publications. Besides, it makes sense: Barcelona is a world-class destination and, therefore, any attack in the city would have greater international repercussion than in other places. Plus in August Barcelona is packed with foreign visitors …

So that’s why at some point many of us have wondered whether “one day it’ll be us”. But that day hadn’t come. Was it due to good police work or because ISIS chose not to strike?

It might be a combination of factors. It is true that terrorist cells were arrested in Catalonia and, therefore, if they haven’t struck earlier it is because the police have done a good job. But the cell that is behind this week’s attack, with the arrests in Ripoll … This could have further-reaching implications. Did a smallish group of people who radicalised in Catalonia plan and carry out the attack themselves? Was it a group led by ISIS in Syria? We’ll see about that.

If it was known that Barcelona was a target, was keeping the terrorist threat level at 4 a good call or should it have been taken up to level 5?

It’s hard to say, because level 5 involves a number of measures that might have stopped the attack on La Rambla, but the terrorists might have picked Passeig de Gràcia instead, for example. Even if you cut off all traffic on some streets, it is virtually impossible to avoid an attack in other spots. Could we have placed bollards at the top of La Rambla to prevent motor vehicles from driving down the boulevard? Well, they could have entered it via a side street … It’s really hard to avoid.

We do not want to alarm anyone, but could there be more attacks?

Yes, it’s possible. What is certain is that in the coming days we will see further arrests of members of support cells, once the police have followed the leads. If one of the vans has been found in Vic, that means they are familiar with the area. And with the Ripoll arrests … We will have to see how deep the cell goes.

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