Despite growing up in Ripoll, the terrorists who attacked Catalonia five years ago were convinced that good Muslims forced them to kill non-Muslims
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the 2017 Barcelona and Cambrils attacks, in which on the afternoon of August 17 and the early morning of the following day, six terrorists killed 16 people, injured 140 and left another 200 with psychological consequences. part of a 10-person cell associated with the Islamic State jihadist organization, then based in Syria. But apart from the leader of the cell, a middle-aged Moroccan imam, the other members were adolescents and young people who, despite having grown up in Ripoll and trained in this city of Girona, were ultimately convinced that they were good Muslims. forced them to kill non-Muslims.
One of them spoke angrily at the “Christians” in a video recorded a few days before the attacks, stating that “Allah has chosen us from millions of men to make you cry blood.” Another exclaimed: “Allah has promised us paradise and he has promised you hell.” Another was shown wearing an explosive belt saying that to make it “all you need to believe in Allah and have an exaggerated hatred of the disbelievers.” And there was another minor among them – until three members of the Ripoll cell radicalized as minors – for whom “all Spaniards are bad” because “they forbid us to wear the burqa”.
The process by which they came to adopt these ideas is called violent radicalization. In the case of the Ripoll terrorists, it was a process associated with radical or exclusive Islamism, Salafism. But violent radicalization can occur in relation to other kinds of social or political ideologies. It can also occur in people of other ages and in women, although in these cases they usually lead to differentiated forms of involvement. Moreover, only some of those who radicalize become involved in activities related to terrorism, as happened with the boys from Ripoll who attacked Barcelona and Cambrils.
Five years later, his case serves as a pretext to return to what we know about the processes of jihadist radicalization that develop from that fundamentalist way of understanding the Islamic faith that is Salafism. What is the most important thing that the violent radicalization of the terrorists who attacked in Barcelona and Cambrils revealed regarding who is most vulnerable to fall into these processes? To what extent has it enabled us to better understand when, where and how jihadist radicalization processes are more likely to affect Muslims in Spain?
As for who is most vulnerable to jihadist radicalization processes, the most relevant in the case of those who formed the Ripoll cell is that – unlike the imam who led them, who had entered Spain illegally from Morocco and the media for a decade before acting as an entrepreneur of that cell- belonged to the second-generation social segment. That is, they were born or raised in Spain, although they were descendants of Moroccans who immigrated for economic reasons. As in other European countries, these second generations of Muslim descent have been a part of the population particularly susceptible to jihadist radicalization since the middle of the last decade.
Around the time when jihadist radicalization is most likely, members of the Ripoll cells radicalized in the context of an unprecedented cycle of jihadist mobilization in Western Europe from 2012 to 2019, peaking in 2014 and 2015. of them, aged between 15 and 21, became radicalized. That is, these radicalization processes have continued since the origins of global jihadism in the mid-1980s, but their frequency increases, among people in critical stages of their vital development, when a specific cycle of mobilization that is promoted by jihadist organizations takes place actively in conflict areas.
As for where the processes through which there are Muslim adolescents and young people are more likely to religiously justify the use of violence and terrorism against non-Muslims, what was highlighted by the case of the members of the Ripoll cell is that it is jihadist radicalization in Catalonia was no accident. Catalonia had become one of the main scenes of jihadist radicalization and recruitment in Spain. This fact correlates with the much greater presence of Salafists in Catalonia, where a third of all Muslim places of worship were and are controlled by Salafists, compared to other parts of Spain.
And as for the how, the case of the members of the Ripoll cell is paradigmatic. Their jihadist radicalization processes were determined by two factors. In the first place, the face-to-face interaction with some radicalization agent in oratorios and flats or in parking garages and bar terraces under the guise of chance encounters. The imam who ran the cell was a common radicalization agent, but his older followers contributed to the younger’s indoctrination. Secondly, the multiplicity of affective ties that united them determined their processes of radicalization and jihadist recruitment. Not only were there four pairs of brothers between them, but two pairs were equally cousins.
None of those terrorists radicalized online or in prison. But in Spain, jihadist radicalization continues on the internet or social networks, and what happens in prisons is a serious problem. And meanwhile, there are still behaviors that point to other vectors of violent radicalization. It is common in the Basque Country and Navarre with adolescents and young people adhering to radical or exclusively nationalism, glorifying those who were ETA terrorists, denigrating their victims and harassing citizens with different political ideas. Without forgetting that in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante or Tenerife, plots of violent radicalization with far-right ideology have been configured in recent years. A tendency to withhold.
Source: La Verdad