Barcelona Terror Alert Coincides with New Spanish-Language ISIS Threats

The State Department’s warning of a possible terror attack in Barcelona was issued a week after a Spanish-language video released by an ISIS-allied media group invoked the August 2017 Las Ramblas attack and threatened new assaults.

On Dec. 23, the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona issued a security alert warning that U.S. citizens “should exercise heightened caution around areas of vehicle movement, including buses, in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona (Plaza Catalunya to Plaza del Portal de la Pau) during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.”

“We remind U.S. citizens that Spain is currently at a Level 2 Travel Advisory: exercise increased caution due to terrorism,” the alert added. “Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, and other public areas. U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security.”

El País reported that Catalan police were looking for a man identified only as B. L., 30, from Casablanca, who holds a bus driver’s license. Police have been checking out bus drivers and monitoring car rental companies around Barcelona, and increased security at potential targets.

Spain’s Interior Ministry said Dec. 21 that they had arrested a 33-year old Moroccan in Mataró, northeast of Barcelona, who had gone to Syria to fight for ISIS in 2014.

In mid-December, a six-minute video showing scenes from the Las Ramblas attack and distributed by Muntasir Media declared that “the cells are ready” to strike “designated” targets again. Younes Abouyaaqoub, who struck pedestrians with a rented van in the 2017 attack, was lauded as “the hero of Barcelona” and shown escaping the scene.

The video showed various images of veiled women being taken into custody and said jihadists in the country needed to launch a “new attack in revenge for our sisters.”

This past week, an image circulated online by ISIS supporters showed a shadowy image of a person shot in the head with the message “Muy pronto en Barcelona [Soon in Barcelona] — you will taste terror in your countries.”

Two other Spanish-language posters distributed at Christmas encouraged gun and knife attacks. “Your holidays are approaching and your funerals are also close,” one said.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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