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Local imam allegedly radicalized Catalonia cell

August 19, 2017

Police now suspect a missing imam of having radicalized the youths who allegedly attacked pedestrians in Barcelona, Spanish media report. However, Islamic clerics in the assailants' hometown have condemned the attacks.

Barcelona police patrol the pedestrian area of Las Ramblas
Barcelona police patrol the pedestrian area of Las Ramblas late Saturday nightImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Balk

Spanish authorities searched the imam's home in Ripoll on Saturday, as part of their probe into terror strikes two days ago.

The Muslim cleric, A. Es Satty, abruptly left his post at the Ripoll mosque in June. According to the mosque head, Es Satty recently told his colleagues he would be going to his home country of Morocco for three months.

The investigators believe that the cleric radicalized the suspected attackers, all of whom came from Ripoll. He likely motivated them to commit the deadly attacks, a police official told the AP news agency.

Read more: Catalonia's Islamic extremism problem

Missing, presumed dead

Police also suspect that Es Satty might have been killed in the explosion in Alcanar, while the terror cell attempted to create a bomb in the apartment they reportedly used as a base. The Spanish broadcaster RTVE said that human remains of one of the blast casualties could correspond to the missing cleric. This has not been officially confirmed.

Es Satty's flatmate in Ripoll reportedly saw the cleric earlier this week.

"The last time I saw him was Tuesday and he told me that he was going to see his wife in Morocco," he told the AFP news agency.

Ripoll Muslims speak out

The Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll pledged its solidarity with terror victims in a notice posted on the local mosque.

"Faced with this criminal act, the Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll reiterates its complete commitment to the fight against any form of terrorism, and we hope that those responsible for this attack are arrested and taken before a judge as soon as possible," they said.

At the same time, a group of Muslims gathered at the scene of the Barcelona attack to show their opposition to terrorism.

Read more: Barcelona stands up against fear

Father of suspects 'in shock'

The families of the terror suspects also gathered at downtown Ripoll on Saturday to express remorse and denounce terrorism. Similar statements also came from Morocco, from the father of the two Oukabir brothers who were suspected of organizing and conducting the attacks.

Said Oukabir told the AFP news agency that he and his family were "under shock, completely devastated" at the news, adding that his children had shown no sign of radicalization.

"They lived like the young people of their age, dressed like them," the father said.

dj/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)