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US embassy feared Barcelona was an Islamist hub

Fears that Barcelona was becoming a hub of terrorist activity prompted the US embassy in Spain to consider setting up a counterterrorism center in the city. The news is the latest WikiLeaks revelation to hit the media.

A view over Barcelona

Barcelona was identified on the grounds of its large Muslim immigrant community

A trio of cables released by WikiLeaks on Saturday, said the United States had developed plans for a counterterrorism, anti-crime and intelligence center at its consulate in Barcelona.

A cable obtained by the Spanish newspaper El Pais showed that Spanish authorities had identified the capital city of Catalonia as having "a large Muslim population susceptible to jihadist recruitment."

The cable, from October 2007, proposes action in light of this information, following increased surveillance after the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The document claims that many of the city's large number of immigrants from North Africa and Southeast Asia felt marginalized.

A screen showing WikiLeaks

The revelations in El Pais came from cables sent to WikiLeaks

"Spanish authorities tell us they fear the threat from these atomized immigrant communities prone to radicalism, but they have very little intelligence on or ability to penetrate these groups," the cable from the US embassy in Madrid added.

A US diplomatic cable from 2005, said, "Spain is both a significant target of Islamic terrorist groups and a major logistical hub for Islamic extremist groups operating across the globe."

Catalonia was also identified as a region that attracted drug traffickers and money launderers, as well as being a home to organized crime.

"The Spanish political class is gradually waking up to the amorphous threat represented by the nexus of terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking, and would likely look favorably on our proposal," the cable said. It is not known if the center was ever set up.

US embassy spokesman Jeff Galvin told the Associated Press only say that the US and Spain enjoy "excellent cooperation" in counterterrorism investigations.

Author: Richard Connor (AP, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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