Barcelona: Shocking, but not surprising.
Jihadist groups had said they intended to take their campaign of terror to – ‘The Mediterranean’. In April Spanish intelligence warned that they expected a terror attack on a tourist site during the summer. They considered Madrid and Barcelona to be at the highest risk.
Two months ago the CIA told their Spanish counterparts that Las Ramblas was a target.
On Wednesday there was an explosion in a house in the town of Alcanar. That set alarm bells ringing and may explain why so many eyewitnesses to the Barcelona atrocity say they noticed an increased police presence in the hours before the attack.
When the second vehicle ramming happened, 74 miles away in the town of Cambrils the assumption was of a coordinated attack. ISIL later said it was responsible.
Among the arrests made are a Moroccan and a Spanish man of Moroccan origin. This is also not surprising. Given the proximity of North Africa to Spain the heritage of many Spanish Muslims is from the Maghreb. Of several hundred suspected terrorists on the Spanish watch list about 150 are thought to be men who have returned from jihad in Syria and Iraq.
Over the past few years the Spanish authorities have thwarted several terror plots, and last year there were 187 terror related arrests there, second only to France in Europe. There have now been at least 9 vehicle attacks in Europe in the past three years.
President Trump couldn’t but help get himself in the news again this week. After all, he opened his mouth and spoke, and opened his lap top and tweeted.
Following the violence in Charlottesville in which Heather Heyer was killed he blamed it on ‘all sides’. Without doubt some of the extremists from the ‘Antifa’ (anti-fascist) movement came ready, and possibly wanting, to fight, but hundreds of neo-Nazi white supremacists showed up with shields, torches, and weapons. They chanted slogans such as ‘Blood and Soil’ and ‘We won’t be taken over by Jews’. Somehow the President even managed to say that there were some ‘really good people’ among them.
In a phenomenally bad tempered press conference he was asked why he hadn’t condemned the extreme right’s actions in Charlottesville earlier. His response was that as a responsible politician he needed to be ‘sure of the facts.’
This potentially credible remark was somewhat undermined on Thursday when he reacted to the terror in Barcelona.
The President tweeted that people should ‘Study what General Pershing did to terrorists when caught’ – suggesting that Pershing had stamped out Islamist terror in the Philippines in the early 1900s. The story was that Pershing had rounded up 50 terrorists and ordered 49 of them to be shot using bullets dipped in pig’s blood. The survivor was supposed to then tell people what happened.
The problem was that historians have convincingly debunked the story. Fake history!
There was a huge loss of life in Sierra Leone this week. Hundreds of people were killed by a mudslide and flooding on the outskirts of the capital –Freetown. There have already been mass burials, but hundreds of people remain missing, and almost 3,000 survivors have been made homeless. Sierra Leone has the highest rainfall in Africa and the capital is prone to flooding. It is squeezed between the mountains and sea, and has spread up the mountainside which has resulted in deforestation which is often illegal. This erodes the soil and is thought to have contributed to the mudslide. Dumping waste into poorly functioning drainage systems is also though to be part of the cause of the disasater.
There was a landmark case at the International Criminal Court court. An Islamist militant , Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi , was found liabale for $3 million dollars for destroying ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu He’s already serving a 9 year jail sentence for leading the forces which destroyed the monuments in Mali in 2012. It is a symbolic ruling as Mahdi has no funds. The ICC has ruled that the $3 million damages should be paid to the local community which tried to save the monuments. Mahdi admits His crimes and is remorseful calling on muslims not to follow his path. .
Finally, an opinion poll has given us a picture of the likely make up of the Bundestag after next months’ parliamentary elections in Germany. The survey, by Bildt, suggests that Alternative For Germany (AFD) is set to become the country’s 3rd biggest party and enter parliament for the first time. Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats are expected to remain in power, but if the poll is correct it will change the German political landscape. It might also halt the complacent view that the results of the French and Dutch elections this year suggested that the rise of the far right in Europea had been halted. That view is statistically flawed.
That was the week that was – enjoy the week which will be.