The CIA warned Catalan police two months ago that Las Ramblas in Barcelona could be a target for a terrorist attack, reports suggest.
After attacks in Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels, US counter-terrorism officials reportedly believed Islamist terrorists could be planning a massacre in the Spanish city.
At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a van ploughed into crowds of people on Las Ramblas on Thursday. Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.
US officials had reportedly warned their Spanish counterparts that Las Ramblas could be a prime terrorist target, according to El Periodico.
Concerns were first raised a year ago when, reports suggest, an Isis leader distributed an image showing world tourist sites and suggesting they could be subjected to future attacks. The Colosseum in Rome, the Statue of Liberty in New York and Big Ben in London were all included, as was Las Ramblas.
That warning led to improved security outside Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona but no major changes were made to Las Ramblas.
In a 2007 report later leaked by Wikileaks, the then US ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, wrote: “Spanish and American authorities have identified Catalonia as the largest Mediterranean centre for Islamist radical activity.”
Spanish media also reports that, on 30 July, a Twitter account associated with Isis posted a message saying: “We are going to install the caliphate in Spain and we will recover our land. Attack imminent in Al-Andalus [the medieval Muslim name for Spain], God willing.”
Spain is considered to be a target for Isis because the group sees its duty as establishing Islam everywhere, particularly in areas, like much of Spain, that were once Muslim.
After the attack, Isis-affiliated accounts posted messages celebrating the murders. One wrote: “To all the Spaniards, now is the time to pay for everything that your governments have done to our countries.”
Catalan police have so far made three arrests in connection with the Barcelona attack. One of the main initial suspects, Driss Oukabir, was detained in the town of Ripoll, around 65 miles north of Barcelona, after reportedly handing himself in having seen his name in media reports.
The 28-year-old’s ID had been found in the van that was used in the attack but he reportedly told police the document had been stolen by his younger brother, Moussa Oukabir. A major police manhunt is now underway for the younger of the two siblings, who are of Moroccan…