Barcelona Is Not Charlottesville
Last weekend’s car-ramming in Charlottesville, Virginia immediately became upstaged on Thursday when scores of people were mown down by a speeding van on a bustling street in Barcelona. The terrorist attack in Spain, on a packed tourist promenade, not only claimed the lives of many innocent people, but served as a bloody reminder of what Islamic State terrorists have been up to while Americans continued to scream about the ostensible rise of neo-Nazism in the United States, and bicker over the question of whether President Donald Trump has been encouraging white supremacism and antisemitism.
According to unfolding reports in the Spanish and international press, at least 14 tourists and locals were killed, and another 100 were injured, when they were run over by a van plowing down the iconic Las Ramblas thoroughfare. The vehicle was rented by 28-year-old Driss Oukabir, a Moroccan with a Spanish passport. When his photo was released after the attack, however, Oukabir entered a nearby police station to declare that his documents had been stolen, perhaps by his 18-year-old brother.
Nevertheless, according to Spanish media reports, Oukabir’s Facebook page included a video about a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and angry posts about the metal detectors that had been placed on — and removed from — the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site of the July 14 terrorist attack outside of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The page has since been deleted.
While the details of two suspects in custody and a third who apparently committed suicide were being investigated and sorted out, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage. This may have included one death in a possibly related accidental explosion on Wednesday night of a house that served as a makeshift bomb factory or storage facility, full of propane gas tanks. It is now believed that the canisters were intended for the van, which would have made Thursday’s attack even more lethal.
The pattern is a familiar one by now, particularly in European capitals. ISIS, which is being pushed back in Syria and Iraq, is increasing its calls on sympathizers residing in the West to go out and kill “infidels.” After conducting a cost-benefit analysis, the terrorist group realized that it was no longer worth it for would-be jihadists to travel to the Middle East to be trained and then return to their countries to commit random slaughter; they can simply, and more cheaply, stay home and do it on their own, with a little help from instructional videos from more experienced killers.
The November 2016 issue of the Islamic State publication Rumiyah outlined the advantages of car-ramming, for example. “Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner,” it stated. No kidding.
It is interesting to note that more recently, in February this year, a British government report revealed that last summer ISIS began recruiting Spanish-speakers and translators to spread the jihadist message and issue “direct threats” on tourist hot spots in Spain. The Barcelona massacre, then, could have been predicted. At the very least, it should have been anticipated.
Indeed, with ISIS openly using the web — promoting jihad through its online magazine in several languages, and through Telegram, a network with more than 100 million active users — it is unbelievable that European security forces are caught off guard with each new Islamist bloodbath.
It is not surprising at all, however, that Trump’s statement of solidarity with Barcelona and condemnation of the terrorists would be ridiculed, and not only by the liberal media. French President Emmanuel Macron took the opportunity of the van-ramming to tweet: “We stand beside those who fight racism and xenophobia. It is our common fight, in past and present. #Charlottesville.”
Even in the midst of defeat on the battlefield, ISIS fighters paused to have a good laugh.
Ruthie Blum is an editor at the Gatestone Institute.
This piece first appeared in Israel Hayom.