The Road to Las Ramblas

The man behind the Barcelona attacks was on the police radar for years. How did they let it happen?

By Zach Campell and cross-posted from The Intercept

Nobody wants to talk about Abdelbaki Es Satty. When pressed, those who knew him call him “evil” and “savage” and a disgrace to the communities he’s lived in. Some of his neighbors are just surprised that the imam next door was capable of masterminding an attack. But most of his acquaintances from recent years didn’t know his past: that he’d been investigated and had his phone tapped in one of the largest international terrorism cases in Spanish history; that he had two smuggling convictions and had spent four years in prison. Despite all that, he was able to live under the radar while he organized the most deadly terrorist attack in Spain since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

The Spanish government especially does not want to talk about Es Satty. The investigation into his case is sealed by a judge. Spanish police won’t offer much comment on the case, nor will police for the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital. The director of Spain’s intelligence agency — referred to as the CNI, for its initials in Spanish — has given one closed-door briefing on Es Satty in the Spanish Parliament, and did so only after politicians began calling for a public investigation.

And so, over a year after the attack, the public has been provided few answers as to how Es Satty was able to convince a group of young men to kill and injure innocent people on a mass scale — and how he evaded police attention while doing so…

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