Cell Behind Barcelona Attack May Have Had Sights on Eiffel Tower

That prompted the opposite cell members to maneuver up the timing of their plans and to improvise assaults over the following two days that may quantity to the deadliest assault in Spain for the reason that 2004 bombings in Madrid. The assailants used a van to crush pedestrians alongside the favored Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona and 9 hours later, they used one other automobile to careen into vacationers on a promenade within the seaside city of Cambrils.

Inside the bombed-out ruins of the group’s explosives manufacturing facility, investigators recovered 500 liters, or about 110 gallons, of acetone, a solvent utilized in cleansing provides, and 340 liters of hydrogen peroxide, a bleach generally utilized in hair salons. The two chemical compounds are the uncooked substances used to make triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, which has turn into the signature explosive utilized by the Islamic State in assaults in Europe.

Investigators estimate that the terrorist cell had sufficient precursor chemical compounds to make 200 to 250 kilograms, or 440 to 550 kilos, of TATP, in accordance with the research.

Emergency workforce members collected proof on the deserted house in Alcanar, Spain, that the terrorist cell had been utilizing to make explosives.

Joan Revillas/Associated Press

By comparability, the suitcase bombs that killed 32 folks on the Brussels airport in March 2016 and injured greater than 320 had every weighed lower than 20 kilograms. And the fighters dispatched from Syria to reign terror on the French capital in November 2015, killing 130 and wounding greater than 600, had at most a number of kilos of TATP in every of their respective suicide belts.

The Barcelona cell purchased a lot of the substances for its do-it-yourself bombs on Aug. 1, 2 and 16, the research discovered. The two vans used within the assaults had been rented on Aug. 16 for seven days, suggesting that the group deliberate to commit the assault that week.

In the rubble of the property in Alcanar, investigators recovered a pocket book inscribed with the title of Abdelbaki Es Satty, the oldest member of the cell and its presumed ringleader and recruiter. In a sheet contained in the pocket book, they discovered a handwritten word in Arabic describing the cell members as “soldiers of the Islamic State in the land of al-Andalus,” the time period the militant group makes use of to seek advice from the Iberian Peninsula.

Within hours of the primary assault, and once more after the second, Islamic State’s information company, Amaq, claimed credit score, describing the attackers as “soldiers of the Islamic State.” The declare was repeated and amplified in quite a few different ISIS media shops, together with their on-line journal.

No concrete proof has emerged displaying that the members of the cell had been being coached from afar by Islamic State operatives, as has been the case in a number of different European assaults. However, investigators are nonetheless making an attempt to make sense of the journeys made by members of the cell, together with 4 pairs of brothers, all of whom had been of their 20s or youthful, within the months earlier than the assault.

For instance, Younes Abouyaaqoub, who drove the van within the assault at Las Ramblas, visited France a minimum of 3 times from July to December 2016, and once more on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, simply days earlier than the assault. In his final journey to Paris, he stayed at a lodge in Malakoff, positioned simply six kilometers, or almost 4 miles, from the Paris suburb of Villejuif, the place on Sept. 6 the French authorities found a TATP lab run by males who had been making telephone calls to Syria, say the researchers.

Two different members of the Barcelona cell made an unexplained journey to Zurich in December 2016, and roughly per week earlier than the assault, one other member of the group, Driss Oukabir, made a nine-day journey to Morocco. When questioned, his family members mentioned that they had discovered it odd that he didn’t cease by to see his father.

The causes for the journeys stay unclear they usually increase the likelihood that a number of of the members of the cell traveled to make contact with ISIS operatives, the researchers say. What is understood is that, throughout a visit to Paris, the cell members bought a video digicam and used it to movie the Eiffel Tower. The similar video, which was recovered within the particles, additionally exhibits Mohamed Hichamy, one of many members of the cell, standing within the protected home, holding TATP and saying, “Spaniards, you are going to suffer.”

In addition to the footage of the Eiffel Tower, a cellphone utilized by a member of the cell included searches on Google Maps for a number of areas in Spain, together with the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona and the Camp Nou soccer stadium, suggesting that these monuments may additionally have been targets.

Spanish officers instructed their French counterparts that that they had recovered the footage of the Eiffel Tower quickly after the Barcelona assault final fall. According to the researchers, the French authorities decided that the cell might have supposed to strike Paris, too. This prompted a choice to put in a glass fence across the Eiffel Tower, in an effort to guard the landmark from small-arms and vehicular assaults.

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