“Behind every Islamic terrorist there is an Imam…” ~ the late Oriana Fallaci
The imam behind the Barcelona terror cell may have been radicalised in prison by one of the Madrid train bombers, it has emerged.
Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to have been the ringleader in last week’s attacks, was sentenced to two years in 2012 for smuggling hashish between Morocco and Spain.
He was jailed alongside Rachid Aglif, aka The Rabbit, who was serving 18-years for his role in the 2004 bombings, in which 192 people died and more than 2,000 were injured.
Sources in Spain said Es Satty had not been religious prior to going into prison and may have fallen under the malign influence of Aglif and other terrorists while prison.
Josep Lluis Trapero said the terror cell consisted of 12 people all with links to the small town of Ripoll, where Es Satty had been operating as an imam since getting out of prison.
Locals in Ripoll described how Es Satty, who taught Arabic to local children, regularly travelled to Belgium, which has been central to many of the Isil inspired plots.
Hammou Minhaj, 30, secretary of the mosque in Ripoll, said they had not been aware of his criminal past when he began working there.
He said: “Four months ago the police came and they checked we had the right papers. It was just a routine check and everything was in order.
“The mosque checked his knowledge of the Quran only. We did not check his background, we did not check his CV.”
Police believe Es Satty and fellow plotter Youssef Aallaa died in the explosion in Alcanar, leaving only Younes Abouyaaqoub – who is believed to have been the driver of the van used in the attack – still at large.
Five other members of the terror cell were gunned down in the coastal resort of Cambrils as they tried to launch a late night attack on holidaymakers in the early hours of Friday morning.
It is now thought Es Satty radicalised the Moroccan born group in Ripoll within months, persuading them to carry out a deadly bomb attack, which had it been successful could have claimed hundreds of lives.
Police searching debris at the bomb factory in Alcanar said they had discovered 120 gas canisters and also traces of the explosive TATP, which was used in the Brussels, Paris, Manchester and also the London tube bombings.
Three vans had been hired in preparation for the attack and the police believe they were planning to pack them with explosives and gas canisters in order to carry out coordinated attacks at tourist hotspots.
But the surviving members of the cell were forced to move their plans forward when the bomb factory exploded killing their ringleader.
The mosque checked his knowledge of the Quran. And hired him. The Koran taught him to strike fear into the hearts of the unbelievers. And he taught other Muslims. In the mosque.
- Killed: Five suspected jihadists shot dead by police in Cambrils. Moussa Oukabir, 17; Said Aallaa, 18; Mohamed Hychami, 24; two unnamed men
- Arrested: Three in the town of Ripoll: Driss Oukabir, 28, the brother of Moussa. He turned himself in saying his documents had been stolen to rent vehicles used in the Las Ramblas attack. Sahal el-Karib, 34, and Mohammed Aallaa, 27. One unnamed person in Alcanar, following the house explosion there on Wednesday
- Hunted: Younes Abouyaaqoub, now suspected to be the driver in the Las Ramblas attack