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.