Man behind latest attacks radicalised in Spanish prison
Leader behind Barcelona terror attack may have been radicalised in jail
RIPOLL, SPAIN: The ringleader of the Barcelona terror cell, an imam at a local mosque, may have been radicalised in prison by one of the bombers involved in the 2004 Madrid train blasts.
Abdelbaki Es Satty was jailed alongside Rachid Aglif, aka The Rabbit, who was serving 18 years for his role in the 2004 bombings, in which 192 people died and more than 2,000 were injured, Spanish and British media reported.
Es Satty met The Rabbit when he was sentenced to two years' jail in 2012 for smuggling hashish between Morocco and Spain, Britain's Telegraph reported.
The Telegraph, citing sources in Spain, said Es Satty had not been religious prior to going into prison and may have fallen under the influence of Aglif and other militants while prison.
Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo also said Es Satty had met prisoners linked to the Al-Qaeda-inspired bombing of Madrid trains, the worst terror attack in Europe.
That deadly influence seeped all the way to a little Spanish town by the Pyrenees mountains where Es Satty, a Moroccan, turned up two years ago and eventually planned last week's Barcelona attack.
Those who knew Es Satty described him as a discreet and religious man who had recently asked for a holiday from the mosque he was preaching in, apparently to return to Morocco for personal business.
But police believe he may have been among those blown up in an accidental explosion last Wednesday in the house where the suspected attackers were believed to be building bombs.
The blast likely changed the plans of the attackers, who instead used vehicles to smash into pedestrians on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas boulevard and in the seaside resort town of Cambrils.
"On Tuesday morning, he left saying he was going on vacation to Morocco," said fruit seller Nordeen El Haji, 45, who four months ago moved into the apartment that Es Satty occupied in Ripoll.
The decrepit two-room flat rented for 150 euros a month has a view of the tree-covered Pyrenees and the red roofs of the quaint Catalonian town, 90km north of Barcelona.
"He spoke little, spent time with his computer in his room, and had an old mobile phone with no Internet, and few books," said Es Satty's flatmate.
On a piece of furniture lies the police search order dated Friday, just after the twin attacks that claimed 15 lives and wounded 120 people, reported AFP.
A Moroccan, who did not want to give his name, said the imam was "very solitary, and hung out more with these youths than with people of his age".
In Sant Pere street where the imam lived, a 64-year-old local, Mr Francesc Gimeno, told AFP the man "had a reputation of being very Islamist".
"He wanted all the Moroccans to think like him, putting religion above all," said Mr Gimeno, adding he also "required Moroccan women in town to cover themselves".