A Spanish-language ISIS directive circulated just a week after the U.S. consulate in Barcelona warned of a possible attack urges would-be jihadists to “choose a place very busy and full of disbelief” for a vehicle attack.
“Trust in Allah, you do not need to complicate… you do not need to look for materials to make a bomb, nor look for weapons, you do not need any of that, the technique of the run-over is devastating and simple, nobody can detect you,” said the message, which included the image of a passenger van with an ISIS flag on the door and a license plate reading “Islamic State.”
“With weapons and explosives there are usually arrests of some brothers while looking for it, and that is because the kufar [disbelivers] control the weapons and materials of explosion, but Alhamdulillah, there is no control over the vehicles, and a vehicle is equally powerful or even more than a bomb,” continued the message from ISIS supporters conducting online media ops. “The brother of France (Nice) managed to annihilate more than 80 kufar with only a truck. Akhi [brother], rent a large vehicle or truck and choose a place very busy and full of disbelief.”
“When attack[ing] remember that the first moment is the most important, and this is because when you start to run over the other people understand that it is an attack and hide so you must try to hit with all the force at the first moment and with the goal of getting the most deaths possible. Think that this road has no return, you will not go back, think that when you leave your house for the attack you will return to your home but in your house in paradise, where Allah has prepared it for you, Alhamdudillah.”
The message concludes: “The time has come, oh crusaders.”
On Dec. 23, the U.S. consulate warned U.S. citizens that they “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 said. “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.”
Local media reported that Spanish police were looking for a man known to hold a bus driver’s license from Casablanca, and were checking out car rental companies as well as screening bus drivers in response.
It was also reported this week that, among 15 people charged by Moroccan authorities in the Dec. 17 murders of two Scandinavian hikers, a Spanish-Swiss national was accused of recruiting jihadists and training the ones involved in the attack. The dual national has not been identified, but the Spanish government said he possesses an “extremist ideology” and a Spanish passport. His criminal record includes robbery, domestic abuse, and drug trafficking.
On Dec. 21, Spanish authorities said they had taken into custody a 33-year old Moroccan, who had left to fight in Syria on behalf of ISIS in 2014, in Mataró, northeast of Barcelona.
In mid-December, a six-minute video showing scenes from the 2017 Las Ramblas attack and distributed by Muntasir Media declared that “the cells are ready” to strike “designated” targets once again. Younes Abouyaaqoub, the driver in that attack, was lauded as “the hero of Barcelona” and shown fleeing the scene.
The video showed photos of veiled Muslim women being taken into custody by police in various situations, calling for a “new attack in revenge for our sisters.”