International police information ‘does not flow’ from Spain to Catalonia
Catalan police chief complains that all data enters through ‘a little window controlled by the Spanish police’
It’s been 11 days since the terror attacks that hit Barcelona and Cambrils, with the death toll rising to 16 after a German woman who had been critically injured died in the hospital on Sunday. Meanwhile, the controversy continues between the Catalan and Spanish police departments over who had information that could have helped to prevent the attacks.
When international police departments communicate with Spanish law enforcement agencies (which also include Catalonia’s national police, Mossos d’Esquadra), part of the information they provide does not “flow” properly, the Catalan police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, said on Monday. According to him, information enters through “a little window controlled by the Spanish police,” and some of these details are not dutifully sent to Catalonia’s Mossos.
Unlike other regional police bodies in Spain, like the Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, Mossos do not have direct contacts with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), despite this being a long-standing demand from Catalan authorities.
Dismissing previous remarks by the Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, who promised that Catalan police would have direct access to Europol starting in September, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy said on Friday that this is not an issue to be debated now.
"Controls are in place. Some might have failed, and we need to think of ways to prevent this from happening again"
Juan Ignacio Zoido · Spanish minister of home affairs
“We need to be consistent with reality,” Trapero said, outlining that Mossos are responsible for the security of Catalan citizens. He warned that if they do not receive all the information that affects the Catalan people, this could cause “serious problems”.
A ‘sect-like’ jihadist cell
The mastermind behind the terrorist cell, the imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, has been at the center of many of the controversies between the police departments. Es Satty arrived in Ripoll, the Catalan town where most of the terrorists grew up, in 2015. Es Satty managed to create a jihadist cell — regarded as “sect-like” by Trapero and thus extremely difficult to track — that remained invisible to both families and the different police corps.
Yet, Es Satty had a history that could have indicated his potential danger. He spent four years in prison between 2010 and 2014 for drug trafficking, a time when he is believed to get in contact with jihadists convicted for carrying out terror attacks.
Neither the examinations that Es Satty underwent before being released nor the subsequent follow-up noticed any trace of radicalization, the Spanish minister of home affairs Juan Ignacio Zoido said today.
“Controls are in place. Some might have failed, and we need to think of ways to prevent this from happening again,” Zoido said.
In early 2016, a Catalan police officer received an email from a colleague from the Belgian town of Vilvoorde. They had met at a conference, and communicated via their personal email accounts. The Vilvoorde police officer asked whether the Catalan had any information about a man who had recently arrived in the Belgian town and wanted to become an imam. This man was Es Satty. The Catalan officer checked the database and found nothing that made him think Es Satty was a threat.
This brief and informal communication between officers has been seen as something that should have prompted Catalan police to be wary of Es Satty. Yet, the communication did not follow official procedures and Trapero says he does not know whether it was later elevated to higher ranks or other police agencies.
Trapero also dismissed news reports which state that the CIA had warned Catalan police that Barcelona was a target of an imminent terror attack by jihadist groups.
Van driver, alone after escaping
Catalan police chief also said that the van driver who killed 15 people on La Rambla, Younes Abouyaaqoub, did not receive any support during the four days while he was on the run.
The only contact he had with other people, according to Trapero, occurred when he tried to steal a car from a woman and when he attempted to enter a house in order to clean himself. He also killed a man and stole his car shortly after escaping on the day of the attack.