13 Jan. 2022 13:56 Uhr
The terrorist attack in Barcelona on August 17, 2017 is currently the subject of the most heated political conflicts in Spain. It was triggered by statements by an ex-police officer in court that the Spanish secret service CNI had checked the cell in order to “frighten the Catalans.”
There has been a private war that has been going on for years between two now retired officials who were both hired in the Franco era: the ex-commissioner of the Spanish federal police, José Manuel Villarejo and the former head of the CNI secret service, Félix Sanz Roldán. Both are involved in various scandals; Villarejo has been on trial since October 2021 for his involvement in a network of corrupt politicians and business people nicknamed the “sewer of the state”. This week Villarejo brought serious allegations against Sanz Roldán in his trial concerning the attack in Barcelona in 2017.
On August 17, 2017, a delivery van drove into the famous Las Ramblas shopping street in Barcelona, killing 14 people and injuring 118. While trying to escape, the perpetrator stabbed another person. The following night, five other men in a car with axes and knives were shot dead by the police. It later emerged that they all belonged to a terrorist cell with a total of twelve members that had actually planned a large bomb attack; on August 16, however, the assembled arsenal of 120 gas cylinders exploded, killing the leader of the group and one other member. The surviving members of this group were sentenced to between eight and 53 years in prison in May 2021.
The CNI had admitted that it had been in contact with Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, the head of this Moroccan terrorist cell, who was allegedly linked to the 2004 Madrid attackers, from 2010 to 2014. In 2015 Es Satty was supposed to be deported; the deportation was stopped by a court because it would not pose a “sufficiently serious danger”. This fact raises doubts about the length of contact reported by the CNI.
Villarejo now stated that the group was under the control of the CNI. “Often fictional commands were created to cause alarm and such, and that the intention was probably not to trigger any kind of attack, but rather to create the impression of danger, so that Catalonia feels the need to be protected by the state. And it got out of hand when the Imam died and the little ones, young people, didn’t know how to react, “he told the press before entering the court.
“I have with them [dem CNI] worked together to clean up the mess with the famous attack by the Imam of Ripoll, which was ultimately a serious mistake by Mr Sanz Roldán, who miscalculated the consequences of frightening Catalonia a little. “
The reason to want to scare Catalonia is the secessionist aspirations of this Spanish province, which have already led to the elected Prime Minister Puigdemont having to spend a long time in exile. The Spanish central government reacted again and again with harshness, which is why even such allegations as those expressed by Villarejo are not dismissed out of hand in Catalonia.
The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has already requested the appearance of the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska before the Parliament’s Interior Committee to clarify whether the CNI was involved in the attack on Las Ramblas. The ERC is part of the party alliance on which the Sánchez government is based. Another Catalan party, Junts, is calling for a committee of inquiry. Other parties have now joined this demand, EH Bildu, the CUP, PdeCAT and the BNG.
Pere Aragonès, President of the Generality of Catalonia and thus the head of government there, also a member of the ERC, said that if the ex-commissioner’s statements were correct, “declarations are now due”.
“We know how the state’s sewer works, so we’re calling for an investigation to clarify the truth.”
The MP Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, who as a lawyer represented the father of one of the victims of the attack in the negotiations against the terrorists and who has appealed against the judgment, emphasizes that the possible links to the CNI were never clarified during the proceedings.
Villarejo claims there was a warning of an attack in Barcelona by a Moroccan source that the CNI rejected because it believed the source was unreliable. He also stressed that the CNI had put its own counter-terrorism activities at risk by leaking a photo of him, Villarejo, during a clandestine operation in Melilla.
Even if many doubt the credibility of Villarejo, the credibility of his intimate enemy Sanz Roldán is no better and too many questions about the Barcelona attack remain unanswered. Spain starts the year 2022 with a political scandal that will last for a long time and wash up a lot of dirt. After all, the accusation is state terrorism.
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