Terrorism in Barcelona

Jack Devries, Contributing Writer

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In the afternoon on August 17, Barcelona joined the long list of cities to be terrorized by vehicle ramming attacks. Originally use by Palestinians in Israel to incite fear, automobile attacks are becoming more common in the western world. This attack consisted of two vehicular rammings on busy public plazas. Even more treacherous, a premature bombing that was intended for UNESCO world heritage site, Sagrada Familia.

Carried out by a 12-man cell, this attack was planned and overseen by a 40-year-old Moroccan-born Imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty. The night before the first vehicle attack Es Satty and other suspects were killed by an explosion while attempting to alter gas canisters into bombs. These gas canister bombs, would have been intended for bombing Sagrada Familia, a popular tourist site and Roman Catholic Church designed by Antoni Gaudí.

The Catalonia region of Spain is no stranger to terrorism. The Spanish government has dealt with Islamic extremists since the 1980s, and before that, Basque separatist attacks. In order to crack down, the government has recently been preemptively arresting individuals, which, according to The Washington Post, has stopped 51 of them so far this year but at what cost?

Any country that wishes to protect its population has to put restrictions in place, that we know. But at what point is it too much? The system of catching a terrorist will never be perfect, but a lone wolf who attacks on a whim is almost impossible to stop. When the attackers are using readily available cars and propane tanks as weapons it becomes a struggle to prevent even a well-organized terrorist cell like Es Satty’s.

Looking to prevent attacks in the future, Spain and the EU as a whole can implement laws and push for less economic immigration from North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia. Cutting off the Strait of Gibraltar completely could potentially stymie the flow of militants returning from ISIS held areas, and in turn prevent future terrorist attacks. A second and worse option: Spain could set up and empower mass spying organizations and scrutinize the lives of every citizen. Unfortunately, I don’t think Spanish authorities will do much. Either course of action would upset portions of their population. When choosing between terrorism, and governmental overreach: inaction is much easier.