Spain raises terrorist alert vigilance around 150 radical Islamists

by Lorraine Williamson
terrorist alert

MADRID – The departure of the last foreign soldiers from Afghanistan a week ago after the fall of Kabul has led to terrorist alert warnings from security services about the risk of attacks. 

With the fall of Kabul, contacts between the various Western security authorities have increased considerably in recent weeks. Specialists in international terrorism realise the victory of radical Islam in Afghanistan could have immediate repercussions in Europe and elsewhere, according to the newspaper El Mundo. 

Radicalised people and new followers

Counter-terrorism sources in Spain have been explaining time and again when these kinds of “tectonic movements” are taking place in Muslim countries – particularly in the Middle East, from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan – concern is growing. It is feared that the events are encouraging radical Islamists who have settled in Europe to engage in terrorist actions. Either because already radicalised people decide to take action, or because new followers join jihadism. 

Terrorist alert

Spain knows this all too well, since the jihadist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and in Barcelona/Cambrils in 2017. They also coincided with situations where radical Islamism became fashionable in certain social strata. Firstly, March 11, 2004, on commuter trains in Madrid, came after the invasion of Iraq. Secondly, Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, on July 17, 2017, coincided with the largest Islamic State rise in Syria. 

That is why specialists from both the police and the Guardia Civil are ‘very concerned’. Spain is already at terror alert level 4, practically the maximum, which has been maintained since 2015. Police operations against jihadism are practically the order of the day in the country. But the Taliban victory may now exacerbate this situation. 

“Contagion effect”

In the short term, the main reason for a terrorist alert by the security services is not the possible arrival of terrorists from abroad or the installation of training camps in Afghanistan. The big problem is the so-called “contagion effect” of those who are already here. From people who already sympathise with terrorist organisations or from those who may be radicalised by what happened. 

“Lone wolf”

As these specialists in El Mundo explain, today the risk can come from a “lone wolf”, who constantly sees in the media the triumph of those with whom he sympathises. And who has a need for fame and to take some action. In these situations, along with Islamist propaganda, the risk also increases. 

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Counterterrorism

This analysis is not only done in Spain. Counterterrorism specialists have stepped up their vigilance and control over the radicals who have settled in Spain and who are suspected of becoming “a threat” since the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. 

Last Friday there was already a situation that confirms the described fears are justified. A lone wolf attacked a supermarket in New Zealand. Six were injured and the terrorist was killed by the police. The attacker had been booked as a radical by the New Zealand security service for five years. 

150 radical Islamists followed 

Sources consulted by El Mundo estimate there are around 150 radical Islamists on the radar of the anti-terrorist services in Spain. According to the same sources, services must be on top of it, because the period between self-indoctrination and the decision to take action ‘can be very short’. Moreover, these specialists understand it would be uncontrolled actions, ‘without following specific orders’. 

More control social networks 

Security services have also stepped up control in social networks. Those are the places “where we detect the intensity of their radicalism,” the sources explain. When a case is detected, a permanent check of the suspect is activated to check if there are also changes in their eating habits or clothing. This is when the services can bring solid arguments to the courts to act. 

Essential legislation 

“It is not easy to determine the moment of intervention,” note these sources. They consider the legislation on the glorification of terrorism essential. “Without it, we would not have an instrument to conduct legal proceedings.” They are therefore concerned about the proposals from politicians to change this legislation. 

Migration Movements 

“The level of propaganda is skyrocketing in social media” and that adds to the danger. However, the experts also understand that a “very complicated” scenario is emerging in another area in the medium term. They have no doubt that in the migration movement events that take place, international terrorism will try to funnel members of their organisations into Europe’s borders. While the Islamic State has lost strength and weight in that area, the opposite is true for Al Qaeda. 

More control on illegal immigration networks 

There are examples of Algerians belonging to terrorist networks entering Europe through illegal immigration networks. Specialists point out that upon entering Kabul, the Taliban released all radical prisoners from the capital’s prison. “We will have to strengthen control at land borders. Greece has been doing it in the area for months. And Turkey is becoming even more of a hot zone,” conclude these analysts. 

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