ISIS Makes Good on Past Threats and Hits Spain

ISIS Makes Good on Past Threats and Hits Spain

At least 12 people have died and some 80 were injured after a van crashed into Barcelona, Spain's famous Las Ramblas tourist area in the early evening Thursday.

The vehicle deliberately targeted pedestrians as it weaved its way through the crowded market before coming to a stop. Two men are reportedly under arrest and two others have been shot dead by police. The vehicle was rented by a man identified as Driss Oukabir, and the attack has the hallmarks of an Islamic State (ISIS)-related terrorist incident. There are reports of a potentially related hostage-taking incident in the Carrer Tallers, near to the Boqueria food market at the Luna Istanbul Restaurant, but police have denied any civilians are held. ISIS supporters celebrated the Barcelona attack on social media and there are unconfirmed reports that the group claimed of responsibility for the attack, which they usually do within 24 hours, on their own media arm. Al-Qaeda carried out coordinated train bombings in Madrid in 2004 killing some 191 people, and Spain is home to the domestic terror group the Basque Separatist movement, but neither militant group appear to be the culprits in this terrorist attack.

ISIS made "direct threats" against holiday spots in Spain this past February and Spring, and ISIS also threatened to take revenge on Spain after Spanish anti-terror police arrested dozens of suspected militants in 2016. Just two weeks ago a pro-ISIS Twitter user threatened an imminent attack in Spain and pledged to reconquer Andalusia. Vehicle attacks like todays were pioneered by Palestinian terrorists in Israel and have become a deadly new weapon. Al Qaeda has in the past in 2010 called for vehicle attacks, but it is ISIS that has perfected them. We have seen recent vehicle attacks by ISIS supporters in Quebec (2014), Jerusalem (2014, 2017), Nice (2016), Berlin (2016), Columbus (2016), Stockholm (2017), and London (2017), for a second time this year with the Westminster Parliament and London Bridge Borough Market attacks. The targets are increasingly young children and families walking together.

These vehicle attacks have been effective because they come with little warning, feature ease of planning, execution, access, occur at tourist sites or outdoor markets, come with packed crowds with little room to maneuver, where people are confined by buildings and barriers preventing escape. The vehicles used are trucks and vans because of their size, speed, and weight increases their lethality. Many have featured attempted or actual stabbing or shooting of victims after the initial slaughter of those rundown by the vehicle. Little training is necessary in terms of preparing for the attacks, meaning want to be ‘jihadis’ and supporters that have become radicalized as well as experienced terrorists can carry out these types of attacks.

On a last point, this represents Europe’s thirteenth major ISIS-directed or Inspired attack since 2015. Five of those terrorist attacks were carried out by gunmen, six using vehicle, and three using explosives to kill and injure innocent people. Some 188 people have been killed and more than 750 injured in these ISIS-related European attacks.

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