Spain Church Attack: From Madrid Massacre in 2004 to Barcelona 2017, a TIMELINE of Islamist Terror Attacks

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A Moroccan national attacked clergymen at two churches in a southern Spanish city on Wednesday, killing at least one person in the latest terror attack in Spain. Two churches just 300 meters apart came under the attack in the southern port town of Algeciras, authorities said.

The Spanish authorities said the crime is being investigated as a terrorist act. They did not reveal the name and nationality of the attacker but local media outlets said the terrorist was a 25-year-old Moroccan national.

Reports said the attacker had entered Spain illegally and was due to be deported from the country. The Spanish police, who took the Moroccan to Madrid for further investigations, said the deportation proceedings against the man had begun some months ago.

Some two weeks ago, Spain had arrested two Islamic State terrorists in the southern region of Andalusia. The arrested jihadists were allegedly plotting an attack in the region. The Moroccans were arrested in the province of Almería. The Spanish press said, citing intelligence sources, that they were key figures who moved terror operatives from the Sahel region to Spain and radicalized people.

Madrid Train bombing by al-Qaeda
Madrid Train bombing by al-Qaeda Reuters

According to a report that cites National Police general intelligence, Spain arrested 52 suspected jihadists in 25 operations in 2022.

Europe's Most Notorious Islamic Terrorist Arrested in Spain

In 2020, Spain's National Police arrested Abdel-Majid Abdel Bary in the southern port of Almeira after he landed there apparently from Morocco. Abdel Bary was described in the local press as one of the most wanted jihadists in Europe.

Abdel-Bary belongs to the most notorious Islamic terror clan in Europe. He is the son of Adel Abdel Bari, who has killed an estimated 224 people in various attacks across Africa. He is also believed to have organized the Bataclan massacre in Paris in 2015.

Abdel-Majid Abdel Bary
Abdel-Majid Abdel Bary arrested in Spain screen grab

Abdel-Bary was believed to have been killed in Syria but his arrest in Spain shocked the intelligence community across Europe. Spanish police described him as: " One of the most sought terrorists in Europe, both because of his criminal trajectory in the ranks of [ISIS] and because of the high danger that he represented."

Al-Andalus Brigade

In 2014, it was reported that the largest mosque in Spanish capital Madrid was functioning as a Jihadist recruitment center led by a Moroccan terrorist.

Lahcen Ikassrien, who was a former Guantánamo prisoner who was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001, was hauled up in the mosque leading the recruitment and indoctrination of Islamic State fighters planning to travel to frontlines in Iraq and Syria.

Madrid central mosque
Madrid central mosque Wikimedia Commons

Ikassrien and his radical associates set up the terror outfit known as Al-Andalus Brigade based out of the Madrid mosque, the El Pais newspaper reported. The group was busted in an anti-terror crackdown in June 2014.

Al-Andalus Brigade. It was set up in Madrid to radicalize and recruit volunteers and help them reach Syria and Iraq to carry out attacks.

Madrid Train Massacre by Al-Qaeda Jihadists

The most lethal jihadist terror attack in Spanish territory happened in 2004 when terrorists bombed regional trains in Atocha in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,800. This was the biggest terror attack on a western country since 9/11 al-Qaeda attack in the United States.

The worst ever terrorist massacre on European soil happened on March 11, 2004 when the Al-Qaeda operatives planted thirteen bombs in suburban commuter trains travelling Madrid during the rush hour. Ten bombs exploded almost simultaneously in four trains, killing nearly 200 people.

Barcelona Terror Attack

In 2017, sixteen people were killed and more than 120 others injured in terror attacks in two Catalonian cities, including regional capital Barcelona. The attacks were carried out by Moroccan terrorists aligned with the Islamic State terror group.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in which assailants used a van to hit pedestrians in Barcelona's La Rambla Boulevard and the coastal town of Cambrils.

Barcelona Islamic terror attack 2017
Barcelona Islamic terror attack 2017 Wikimedia Commons / Jikatu

On 17 August 2017, a 22-year-old Moroccan man drove a rented van into pedestrians along one of Barcelona's most iconic streets, Las Ramblas.

Thirteen people were initially killed and dozens of others injured, while a fourteenth victim died days later in hospital. After the initial rampage, the man abandoned the van and murdered another person to steal their car and flee the area on foot. Foreign tourists from Belgium, Germany, Italy and Portugal were also killed.

Just hours later, five other members of the IS cell carried out the second attack, 100 kilometres away in the coastal town of Cambrils. Several pedestrians were knocked down by their vehicle and a woman was stabbed to death. All the six terrorists were shot dead by the Spanish police.

Plan to Bomb Sagrada Familia Basilica and Camp Nou

Sagrada familia basilica Barcelona
Sagrada familia basilica Barcelona Wikimedia Commons

A wide terror crackdown across Spain saw the arrest of terrorists and sleeper cell operatives. The arrested suspects revealed wider plans of the outfits to bomb some of Spain's most well-known monuments. The targets included the historic Sagrada Familia basilica and the Camp Nou stadium of Barcelona Football Club.

More Terror Links Unearthed

The Spanish National Police arrested five suspected members of an Islamic State cell in 2021 from Barcelona and Madrid. All of the terror suspects were Algerian nationals, and were believed to have been planning a terrorist attack. Another Algerian man was arrested in Mallorca in 2021 by Spain's Guardia Civil intelligence service on charges of terrorism.

This article was first published on January 26, 2023