Friday, August 18, 2017

18-Aug-17: Spain reels under multiple - evidently connected - jihadi assaults

Barcelona yesterday
It's been a terribly dramatic day and night in Spain. Three separate terror attacks in the Catalan region now appear to be tied to each other and to Islamist terror groups. In the words of Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, “jihadi terrorism” is what's behind the assaults, the maimings and the murders.

Here's an overview based on a range of mainstream media sources. First Barcelona:
  • A van was deliberately driven into pedestrians on one of the city's most popular boulevards, Las Ramblas, killing 13 people on Thursday afternoon. 
  • ISIS claimed "credit". Its Aamaq news agency said (according to Irish Times): “The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states” - evidently referring to the US-led coalition against ISIS.
  • The BBC for reasons none of us ought to respect calls ISIS "the so-called Islamic State". (If that's the game, should we believe that the United Kingdom is actually united? Isn't that unity also so-called? Let's ask the Scots.)
  • "It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible," Josep Lluis Trapero, senior police official, said. [Telegraph UK]
  • Times of Israel says a manhunt is underway for the driver.
  • The attack vehicle is a rented white Fiat van. One version [Telegraph UK] says the driver rammed it into pedestrians outside a kosher restaurant shortly after 5pm. He then "veered onto the promenade and barreled down the busy walkway for 500 metres, swerving back and forth and mowing down pedestrians. Victims were left sprawled in the street, spattered with blood or writhing in pain from broken limbs. Others fled in panic through Las Ramblas, screaming or carrying young children in their arms."
  • The death toll includes one Belgian and three Germans. Among the 100 injured, 15 are in serious condition. The injured include four Australians and according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop: “We are concerned for one Australian who remains unaccounted for. SKY News says that Australian is a seven year-old boy. Another of the Australian injured is in serious condition. In addition there are three Dutch, 26 French (of whom 11 are said by the French government to be in serious condition), three Greeks, one Chinese among those hhurt. Others are from Venezuela, Ireland, Peru and Algeria.
  • Times of Israel reports that the area under attack "went into lockdown. Swarms of officers brandishing hand guns and automatic weapons launched a manhunt in the downtown district, ordering stores and cafes and public transport to shut down. Several hours later authorities reported two arrests, one a Spanish national from Melilla, a Spanish-run Mediterranean seafront enclave in North Africa, and the other a Moroccan. They declined to identify them."
  • According to Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, one of the detained is named as Driss Oukabir, said to be a French citizen of Moroccan origin. But there are also reports a man of that name went to police in Ripoll to report that his identity documents had been stolen. One version being reported is that Driss Oukabir claimed his brother might have stolen them.
  • Reuters says the Spanish royal household said on Twitter: “They are murderers, nothing more than criminals who are not going to terrorise us. All of Spain is Barcelona.” A person could wish that the sentiment of the Spanish royals would occasionally be extended to apply to the murderous, hateful attacks we here in Israel endure on an almost daily basis.
Next, Cambrils:
  • Another vehicle-ramming attack last night (Thursday) in the seaside resort town of Cambrils, about 100 kilometers from Barcelona is being linked to the Barcelona attack.
  • A police officer and five civilians are injured; two are in serious condition. The injuries all appear to be caused by the deliberate ramming.
  • Times of Israel quotes the Cataln region’s Interior Minister Joaquin Forn saying this morning (Friday) that the Cambrils attack “follows the same trail. There is a connection.” He has not yet explained the connection and confirmed the driver in the Barcelona attack remains at large.
  • The same source told Catalunya Radio this morning (Friday) that a third person has been arrested in connection with the Barcelona attack. He was taken into custody in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll.
  • Five men carrying bomb belts and acting as human bombs - evidently inside the ramming vehicle - were shot and killed by police who then detonated their explosives in a controlled blast. Media reports however use a different way of describing their intentions. CNBC for instance writes that they "were wearing suicide belts". Telegraph UK says "five terrorists wearing suicide vests launched the second ramming attack in the country in a matter of hours." CNN says "police killed five men wearing fake suicide belts".
Permit us to interject something (not for the first time) about suicide and human bombs:
If the attackers in Cambrils were going to commit suicide, why in a public place? Could it be that suicide was not actually their goal? Were they in reality contemplating well-thought-out murder? Were they in fact murder-minded terrorists? If so, why confuse and mislead by implying (through the term suicide-belt or suicide bombers) that they were intent on committing suicide? They made themselves into human bombs and that is what we owe to ourselves and victims past and future to call them and those like them. We explain the thinking here: "30-Jun-15: We need to be calling them what they are: human bombs".
And it now appears a Wednesday night gas explosion in the town of Alcanar, 160 kilometers south-west of Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast is part of the same battle:
  • "At least one person died and another six were injured in the explosion at around 11.15pm Wednesday night in the village of Alcanar Platja in southern Catalonia. Firefighters discovered about 20 gas cylinders while examining the scene of the blast... According to reports in the Spanish media, authorities were working under the assumption that a butane gas leak caused the blast. The deceased is believed to have been of Moroccan origin." [RT]
  • Then came a second blast. From Mirror UK: "The first blast occurred at around 11.15pm on Wednesday night in a housing estate called Montecarlo de Alcanar Platja, in Alcanar, in the province of Tarragona, south of Barcelona.... the house was completely destroyed... Police said it was possible a second person was dead among the ruins of the house. They added that they suspect the house was being used to build an explosive device... 
  • A second explosion injured nine more people, including six police officers and two firefighters. 
  • The second explosion happened as the emergency services sifted through the rubble of the house... 
  • Neighbours had said that two north African brothers had been renting the house."
In reactions to the blood-letting and terrorism, the World Council of Churches shamelessly tweeted "Terrible attacks in Barcelona. Must be condemned by all. Prayers for the victims and their families. #PrayforBarcelona". We hope our readers will help circulate a response we published seven months ago: "08-Jan-17: Where the World Council of Churches stands as Israelis are rammed to death".

The head of the Palestinian Authority did what he does best - make up a respectable-sounding but totally insincere and counter-factual condemnation while hoping no one relevant notices the hypocrisy of his being the inciter-in-chief of almost identical attacks directed against Israelis [see "18-Aug-17: On vehicle rammings, Mahmoud Abbas, moderate advocate for terror, is open-minded, sees both sides"]

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