Man shout­ing ‘Al­lahu Ak­bar’ in Spain bor­der knife at­tack

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A knife-wield­ing man shout­ing “Al­lahu Ak­bar” en­tered the bor­der post be­tween Morocco and the Span­ish ter­ri­tory of Melilla yes­ter­day, threat­en­ing po­lice who wres­tled him to the ground. The man is in cus­tody, Span­ish In­te­rior Min­is­ter Juan Ig­na­cio Zoido tweeted, with­out in­di­cat­ing whether the in­ci­dent was an at­tempted ter­ror at­tack.

Zoido posted se­cu­rity cam­era footage of the drama-which took place on Span­ish soil-show­ing the man in a blue top walk­ing slowly through the bor­der post hold­ing a knife, po­lice clos­ing in on him. One of the of­fi­cers hurled a por­ta­ble road bar­ri­cade at him, throw­ing him to the ground as other agents pounced to re­move the knife.

“A man en­tered the bor­der post and once in­side, pulled out a large knife and con­fronted (po­lice) shout­ing ‘Al­lahu Ak­bar’ (God is Greater), slightly in­jur­ing a po­lice­man,” Irene Flores, spokes­woman for the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fice in Melilla, told AFP. Flores said an ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­di­cated the man was Moroc­can, but this has yet to be con­firmed. A po­lice spokesman had ear­lier said the man ran into the bor­der post, but that is not vis­i­ble on the footage.

Melilla and its sis­ter Span­ish city Ceuta, both Span­ish ter­ri­to­ries on Morocco’s north­ern coast, are the only two land borders be­tween Africa and the Euro­pean Union. Many Moroc­cans live there or go there daily to buy tax-free prod­ucts. They are also a strong draw for mi­grants des­per­ate to reach Europe, many of them from sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa.

These reg­u­larly storm the bor­der fences or try and smug­gle them­selves in. The Melilla bor­der has been hit by three car­ram­ming in­ci­dents this year, with peo­ple driv­ing ve­hi­cles with mi­grants hid­den in­side into the bor­der post at high speed. But this is be­lieved to be the first in­ci­dent of this type. Spain has so far been spared the kind of ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence that has oc­curred in nearby France, Bel­gium and Ger­many. But it was hit by what is still Europe’s dead­li­est ji­hadist at­tack in March 2004, when bombs ex­ploded on com­muter trains in Madrid, killing 191 peo­ple in an at­tack claimed by Al Qaeda-in­spired ex­trem­ists. Since 2016, Spain has emerged as a po­ten­tial tar­get for ji­hadists, with ex­trem­ist web­sites men­tion­ing it for his­tor­i­cal rea­sons, since much of its ter­ri­tory was once un­der Mus­lim rule.

Third tourism des­ti­na­tion

Gen­er­ally, au­thor­i­ties in Spain-the world’s third largest tourism des­ti­na­tion­re­main dis­creet on the ter­ror threat. But they pub­li­cize ev­ery ar­rest of al­leged ji­hadists, most of them de­tained for pro­pa­ganda, re­cruit­ment for ex­trem­ist groups or “glo­ri­fy­ing ter­ror­ism.” Ac­cord­ing to the in­te­rior min­istry, more than 180 “ji­hadist ter­ror­ists” have been ar­rested since June 2015 when Spain raised the ter­ror alert level to four out of a max­i­mum of five, in do­mes­tic and for­eign op­er­a­tions.

In Ceuta and Melilla, where poverty and un­em­ploy­ment are rife, such ar­rests are fre­quent. The last in Melilla dates back to June 23 when a man sus­pected of hav­ing tried to re­cruit fight­ers for the Is­lamic State group (IS) was de­tained. “Rad­i­cal­iza­tion in Spain isn’t uni­form over all the na­tional ter­ri­tory but ap­pears to be con­cen­trated around clus­ters or pock­ets of rad­i­cal­iza­tion,” said Clara Gar­cia Calvo from the Real In­sti­tuto El­cano think tank, who re­searches global ex­trem­ism. She told AFP that these “clus­ters” were in Madrid, Barcelona, Ceuta and Melilla.

— AFP

This im­age grab taken from hand­out video footage re­leased yes­ter­day by the Span­ish Po­lice shows Span­ish Po­lice ap­pre­hend­ing a man armed with a knife at the Beni An­zar bor­der cross­ing be­tween Morocco and the Span­ish ter­ri­tory of Melilla.

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