BENIDORM – On Wednesday, the Spanish police arrested a man who planned an attack on tourists on the beach of Benidorm. He wanted to shoot around with a machine gun. The suspected jihadist has been held without bail since Friday.
The 28-year-old alleged jihadist of Moroccan origin and Spanish nationality was arrested in the Santa Eugenia district of Girona by agents of the Guardia Civil and the National Police. No weapons were seized during the arrest.
The arrest of Fath Allah Benhachem Gharrass was made possible thanks to a warning from the American FBI about his extensive degree of radicalisation and proselytising on social networks, on the internet and also on the Deep Web. According to the FBI, he was also looking for components to manufacture ‘Mother of Satan’. The same powerful explosive the terror cell of the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in 2017 also intended to manufacture.
The jihadist’s plan was to film his machine gun attack on bathers in Benidorm and distribute the video on the said networks and those of the Islamic State.
Arrest just before the attack in Algeciras
His arrest took place exactly two hours before the attacks in Algeciras. Another young Moroccan murdered a church caretaker with a large machete. A priest was seriously injured and three others had to be treated for minor injuries. As he wandered around, the jihadist shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
The Moroccan detained in Girona was already negotiating with another radical. He wanted to acquire AK-47 rifles, 9mm Glock pistols and belts for explosives. He had also already done target practice. Las Provincias writes this based on police sources.
Terror experts warn that there is an alarm because of the so-called “copycat effect” (imitation) after the attack in Algeciras. Especially since it is the first time that such an attack has been committed with a knife in Spain. The experts point out that it was one of the techniques Daesh promoted most for those jihadists who could not travel to fight the self-proclaimed caliphate’s “holy war”.
So far, Spain has not been the target of an attack with these characteristics, despite being the easiest way to carry out such an attack. And it is precisely this convenience that the authorities find particularly worrying. It could be a possible inspiration or stimulus for other so-called ‘lone wolves’, especially because of the very strong media backlash and the social unrest that the attacks on the sexton and the priest had.
“Benidorm is safe”
Following the arrest of the jihadist in Girona, the authorities have rushed to emphasise that Benidorm is safe and the security services are on extreme alert. President Ximo Puig stated: “We are not in a situation at the moment to cause more unrest. On the contrary, the security forces are doing their job. Furthermore, they are doing it well and they have the full support of the Generalitat and all the institutions”.
The President of the Confederation of Tourist Entrepreneurs of Valencia, Luis Marti, also spoke out: “This incident will not change the perception that the Valencia Community Region is a safe destination. Because that it is a safe destination is the reality”.
Words to the same effect come from the Valencian Tourist Board: ‘if there is one fact that characterises the region, it is that it is a very safe destination. They also point out that the jihadist was arrested in time. This indicates that the security services are sufficiently alert, or so the reasoning goes.