US cables call Spain magnet for terror recruiters

Wikileaks: US planned to create counter-terror center in Barcelona; Catalonia described as "major Mediterranean center for radical Islamists."

Barcelona earth hour (photo credit: AP)
Barcelona earth hour
(photo credit: AP)
MADRID — The US grew so concerned about the possibility of an Islamist terrorist attack in Spain in 2007 that it proposed setting up a counterterrorism center in the country's second-largest city, according to confidential cables.
The three US cables, released by WikiLeaks on Saturday, state that the US planned the "counterterrorism, anti-crime and intelligence center" at its consulate in Barcelona.
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The goal was "combating the target-rich environment of terrorist and criminal activities centered in the region," which has a "presence of over 1 million Muslims," a 2007 cable says.
One US cable, dated 2005, sets the scene, saying that "Spain is both a significant target of Islamic terrorist groups and a major logistical hub for Islamic extremist groups operating across the globe."
The 2007 cable says Spain "is a past and current al-Qaida target" and a critical player in US-EU counterterrorism efforts.
It says Barcelona has a large Muslim population "susceptible to jihadist recruitment" and adds that "Spanish and US authorities have identified Catalonia as a major Mediterranean center of radical Islamist activity."
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According to the cable, heavy immigration — both legal and illegal — from North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) and Southeast Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh) had made the region "a magnet for terrorist recruiters."

The plans for the proposed center suggest that 13 agents be strategically situated to monitor quickly who and what was passing through the area from places such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and the south of France.
"The threat in Catalonia is clear," the cable says, categorizing Barcelona as a "crossroads of worrisome activities" and a natural meeting place and transit point of people and goods moving to and through the region from all countries bordering the western Mediterranean.
It is not clear whether the center was ever created, and the US Embassy in Madrid declined to comment about that Saturday.
Last month, 11 men — nine of Pakistani nationality or origin — went on trial in Barcelona for allegedly plotting to stage suicide attacks in that city on orders from the Pakistan Taliban.

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