Barcelona was on alert on Monday after the U.S. State Department warned of the risk of a terrorist attack in Spain’s second-largest city during the Christmas holidays.
“Exercise heightened caution around areas of vehicle movement, including buses, in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona during Christmas and New Year’s,” the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said in a tweet on Sunday.
#Spain: Exercise heightened caution around areas of vehicle movement, including buses, in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona during Christmas and New Year’s. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, and other public areas. pic.twitter.com/MPGiZwMwxq
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) December 23, 2018
Asked about the warning during an interview with Rac1 radio on Monday, Catalonia’s regional interior minister Miquel Buch said police “were working on this threat.”
“We take seriously all threats, all of them are investigated,” he added, without giving further details.
Top-selling Spanish newspaper El Pais, citing anonymous police sources, said the authorities were looking for a 30-year-old Moroccan man with a license to drive buses.
Barcelona-based daily El Periodico de Catalunya said Catalan regional police had circulated an internal note that the man could try to drive a bus into crowds in Barcelona.
Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the regional police force in Catalonia did not confirm police were seeking a Moroccan man but said a “temporary reinforcement of security measures in areas of high concentration of people” was in place.
Spain has kept its terrorist alert unchanged at the second-highest level despite the U.S. State Department warning, although security measures were boosted in December for the Christmas holiday period, a Spanish interior ministry spokesman said.
On August 17, 2017, a van rammed into crowds on Barcelona’s tree-lined Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 14 people. The 22-year-old Moroccan driver then stole a car after killing the driver and fled.
Several hours later five of his accomplices mowed down pedestrians on the promenade of the seaside resort of Cambrils south of Barcelona before stabbing a woman to death.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, Spain’s deadliest in over a decade.
More on the Subject
“Although terrorism in Africa has not received as much attention in most Western news media as was accorded to terror organizations in the Middle East, underestimating the size and viciousness of Africa-based groups would be just as dangerous as were the misjudgments about al-Qaeda 20 years ago. Despite this, the U.S. is reportedly considering a significant withdrawal from Africa of its counterterrorism forces. That would be a potentially tragic error,” writes Philip Seib, Professor at the University of Southern California.