Barcelona Synagogue, Jewish Institutions Protectively Shuttered Following Terrorist Atrocity
Barcelona’s main synagogue will be closed for a minimum of 24 hours following Thursday’s deadly terrorist attack in the city, in which at least thirteen people were murdered and upwards of 100 wounded.
Barcelona Rabbi Meir Bar Chen said that all “community institutions” had been closed in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity. Bar Chen confirmed that “this was not a terrorist attack directed against Jews,” following initial reports that a kosher restaurant on the Las Ramblas thoroughfare along the path of the terrorists’ van had been their primary target.
In an interview with The Algemeiner on Thursday, a prominent Catalan journalist highlighted the vulnerabilities facing the Spanish authorities in confronting terrorism both regionally and nationally, as more details of the attack poured in.
“Measures against terrorism have been implemented, but there has been little cooperation between state and regional authorities, especially with the separatist issue in the frame,” Borja Vilallonga — editor-in-chief of the influential Catalan weekly El Temps — told The Algemeiner on Thursday afternoon.
On October 1, voters in Catalonia will go to the polls in a referendum on whether to secede from Spain – a recent announcement from the Catalan government that the region could declare independence within 48 hours of the result has deepened already high tensions with the central government in Madrid.
Vilallonga said, “Imams and communities develop without any kind of state surveillance, even though different terrorist groups have been arrested many times in the Barcelona area, and a number of attacks averted.”
As a result, Vilallonga argued, the Catalan police are technically prepared to respond to terrorism, but are “ill-informed” on the intelligence side. “The Catalan police cannot access Europol files,” he cited as an example, referring to the Europe-wide law enforcement agency. “But it is the Catalan police who are in charge of patrolling public areas in Barcelona like the site of the attack today.”
In the wake of the attack, local media reported that the van used had been rented by a Muslim individual, as intelligence analysts noted that the suspect’s social media feeds — which have now been taken down — contained Islamist propaganda. The Sunni terrorist group ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its Amaq news agency.
Vilallonga observed that “government agencies have little control over the different branches of Islam in Barcelona” despite “reports of radicalization going back years.”
“We don’t really know what Muslims in Barcelona think, or how extremist Salafi currents infiltrate them,” Vilallonga said.
Approximately 1.2 million Muslims live in Spain, with at least 400,000 in Catalonia. Around 100 Spanish Muslims are reported to have joined ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria.