Spanish police have confirmed a lone terrorist was plotting to bomb a football match between the two La Liga giants.
The Barcelona-Real Madrid derby, nicknamed ‘El Clasico’ is one of the most televised and attended football matches on earth with average attendances of over 90,000 supporters at either ground.
The Moroccan man in his thirties was arrested nearly two weeks wandering around Barcelona looking for targets during the lockdown and subsequent interviews by police detectives uncovered the plot.
Spanish police working with the FBI and the Moroccan intelligence officers say the man is a “profoundly radicalised” Islamic State follower who was apparently scouting for targets to attack in Barcelona during the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown.
The authorities claim they knew about the individual for four years however he had kept a low profile. Only recently during the lockdown did they notice a change in his behaviour.
“Since the coronavirus began spreading across Europe, there have been a number of single-person terrorist attacks involving knives or vehicles,” a statement said.
“The arrested man had used social media to proclaim his loyalty to Isis and his hatred for the west. Surveillance officers noticed that he had begun to disregard the lockdown rules set out in the state of emergency on a regular basis, and that he was taking important security measures as he ventured around Barcelona, suggesting he was carrying out a possible search for targets.”
The man had become “totally influenced by Isis propaganda” and had sworn loyalty to the group, “raising real security fears”.
Also two weeks ago, Spanish police arrested a former British rapper turned Islamic State extremist,one of the most wanted militants in Europe.
British and other sources confirmed his identity as Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary,a few hours after the national police force in Madrid said it had arrested an Egyptian national and two other men in a flat in the southern Spanish city of Almería.
Spain isn’t new to terrorist attacks. 16 people were killed in 2017 in Catalonia when a man drove a van down the busy La Rambla shopping street in Barcelona, mowing down pedestrians. 100 more people were injured.
In 2004 191 people were killed and more than 1800 wounded in a series of explosions on four crowded trains in the capital Madrid.