Spanish intelligence helped mastermind of 2017 attacks become imam, say reports

Secret services recruited Abdelbaki Es Satty as informant in exchange for not deporting him

Image of a demonstration in Ripoll to reject the attacks, on August 26, 2017 (by Gerard Vilà)
Image of a demonstration in Ripoll to reject the attacks, on August 26, 2017 (by Gerard Vilà) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 18, 2019 11:34 AM

The Spanish intelligence center (CNI) helped the mastermind of the 2017 Barcelona terror attacks to become an imam in Ripoll, where the subsequent cell was based, three years before the incidents, according to a report by the ‘Público’ digital newspaper.

Spain's secret services recruited Abdelbaki Es Satty as an informant in 2014, in exchange for not deporting him, says the same source.

These are the main items in the media outlet’s third report on the links between the CNI and Es Satty, which lays out evidence that the mastermind of the attacks was an informer for the secret services right up until the events on La Rambla.

The report also states that a paper written by the secret services shows that some cell members were tracked and their conversations tapped until five days before the deadly incidents, although they were unable to prevent the 16 fatalities caused by the events on August 17, 2017.

Jailed for drug dealing

In its third report, ‘Público’ says that Es Satty spent four years in jail from 2010 to 2014 for drug dealing, and it is during this period that he was hired as an informant.

Mentioning sources of CNI itself, he was told that if he collaborated, he would not be deported – when he finished his sentence, the government seat decided to send him back to his country, Morocco, but a judge overturned the decision.

Infiltrating in European jihadist networks

Carlos Enrique Bayo, the journalist signing the article, also states that the secret service “fixed recommendations and guarantors” so that he could be admitted as imam in Ripoll, where presumably he created the cell.

CNI’s intention, reads the text, was for him to infiltrate in the European jihadist networks.  

Esquerra party asks EU to take action

The report has sparked outrage in the past few days among Catalan politicians. On Thursday, pro-independence ERC called on the European Council and Commission to ask Spain for an explanation over the issue.

Through a parliamentary question, MEP Diana Riba has also called for the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, to be granted access to international bodies such as Interpol, Europol and Sirene.

Request for a meeting with Spain’s vice president

Also on Thursday, the Catalan government spokesperson sent a letter to Spain’s executive second-in-command to ask her for a meeting over the controversy.

She urges Madrid an “explanation” on Es Satty so that it can “put an end to social unrest.”