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The Roots of the Barcelona Attack

In Catalonia, Salafist Terror Is No Surprise

A man mourns near a memorial on Las Ramblas, the site of the August 17 terrorist attack, Barcelona, August 2017. Susana Vera / Reuters

The August 17 terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, in which a total of 15 people were killed by militants pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (or ISIS), came as a surprise to some observers. Prior to these events, there had not been an attack in Spain during the recent wave of ISIS-linked terrorism in Europe, and additionally the country has experienced relatively low levels of radicalization. Only about 200 people have traveled from Spain to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, compared to more than 1,500 from France, 1,000 from the United Kingdom, 900 from Germany, 600 from Belgium, and 300 from Austria.

More careful analysis indicates that Spain was not an unlikely target. First, as a general point, no Western country should be considered immune to the terrorist threat. Attacks have been planned and executed in countries such as Sweden and, just last week, Finland—none of which are known as hotbeds of jihadism. ISIS

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