Another terrorist attack took place in a European city, this time in Barcelona; just south of the city in the tourist resort of Cambrils a number of potential suicide bombers have been shot dead; the Spanish Police are linking the two incidents and it seems likely that this terror cell had planned and prepared their deadly attacks from a house located in Alcanar which blew up on Wednesday night killing one person.
As inspired in the last edition of the magazine “Rumiyah“, a vehicle was used as a weapon also in the Barcelona terrorist attack. Sadly more than a dozen people lost their lives, over 100 were injured, some in critical condition. So, why are vehicles being used? What can be done to stop this and other types of attacks, such as Nice, Berlin, London and now Barcelona?
Going back in time, we can see that this modus operandi is not new, nor was it introduced by the Islamic State, but a tactic used by Hamas in Israeli territories for many years. Al-Qaeda then championed it in their Inspire magazine in 2010 with an article titled “The Ultimate Mowing Machine.” A car was used in London in May 2013 to knock down the British Soldier Lee Rigby before he was hacked to death with kitchen knives.
So how is it that individuals and groups are inspired and instructed in how to carry out these types of attacks? At the heart of the issue is the introduction of social and encrypted networks in our social media enabled society. These are accessible to any individual with access to smartphones or laptops/computers and from there can access almost any information or communicate with anyone without any restriction.
The Barcelona terrorist attack
It seems that the vehicle attack on Barcelona was probably planned quickly after an explosion in the town of Alcanar some 120 miles South of Barcelona destroyed a probable bomb factory the extremists were using to prepare a series of suicide devices. It is possible that they intended to use similar tactics to the London Bridge attackers and drive a vehicle into a crowded area, then disperse and blow themselves up to cause further carnage, but when the house in Alcanar exploded on Wednesday night they quickly formulated a backup attack plan.
Whilst this theory as yet to be proven, analysts at Global Intelligence Insight believe it is a credible explanation of why a light truck was used along Las Ramblas in Barcelona and then 5 extremists wearing fake suicide vests were shot dead by police in the resort town of Cambrils some hours later.
Through monitoring of encrypted groups and channels used by sympathizers of the so-called Islamic State, the Global Intelligence Insight team can see at first hand the congratulatory chatter amongst extremist supporters before the official claim through the “Amaq” news agency, the “official” channel belonging to the Islamic State.
As in previous attacks, images, content, and themes related to the subject have been spread and disseminated within the Jihadist community. Generally, they are coordinated by senior sympathizers, the latter being in close cooperation with the central command.
We have reasons to believe that once again there was no direct order from the chain of command but rather from an autonomous cell that at least has to be composed of a number of elements, some of which are still at large. For an operation of this magnitude, there will have been a lot of surveillance and counter surveillance work done by those who carried out this type of attack. It will have been carefully planned and careful reconnaissance will have been carried out.
All this seems surreal to us after several similar attacks and nothing has been done so far regarding the monitoring and analysis of the various groups and channels. We continue to urge that immediate preventive measures should be taken so that no further attacks happen. Public areas need anti Vehicle Mitigation measures, intelligence agencies need additional capability.
The one thing is certain, we have seen a sea change in tactics and overall sophistication; the threat to Europe has grown once more.
About the author: Vasco Da Cruz Almador is CEO at GlobalIntelligence Insight
(Security Affairs – Barcelona terrorist attack, ISIS)