Police are now looking into whether Abdelbaki Es Satty (pictured) was involved in the deadly ISIS attacks on the Brussels airport and underground in 2016
The Imam suspected of masterminding the Barcelona terrorist attacks travelled to Belgium three months before the Brussels bombing and was friends with the Madrid train bombers, it has been revealed.
Police are now looking into whether Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to have radicalised members of the terror cell that attacked Barcelona and Cambrils, was involved in the deadly ISIS attacks on the Brussels airport and underground in 2016.
Last week, a 12-strong terror cell launched attacks in northern Spain leaving 14 dead and around 130 injured.
Es Satty was reportedly friends with some of those jailed for the Madrid train bombings in 2004, having spent four years in prison himself for drug trafficking and breaking Spanish immigration laws.
He also had spent several months looking for work in the Vilvoorde district north of Brussels, in Belgium, the region’s mayor Hans Bonte told Belgian newspaper De Morgen.
Vilvoorde is known for jihadi activity and police were said to have contacted the Catalan department of justice and were told Es Satty had no links to extremist violence.
Es Satty is thought to have died in an Alcanar explosion having masterminded the terror attack, though police are still carrying out DNA tests.
Spanish newspaper El Pais said he was imam at one of the two mosques in Ripoll, in the north-east of Spain near to the French border and around 62 miles from Barcelona.
All of the main suspects are believed to have lived in the small town, famous for its monastery, and which has a Muslim community of around 500 people.
Officials believe the terror group behind the attacks were plotting much deadlier carnage using explosives favoured by Islamic State militants.
It was also revealed that the Audi A3 used in the Cambrils attack was caught speeding in Paris a week ago, according to The Times.
Es Satty is thought to have died in an Alcanar explosion (pictured) having masterminded the terror attack, though police are still carrying out DNA tests
Spanish newspaper El Pais said he was imam at a mosque (pictured) in Ripoll, in the north-east of Spain near to the French border and around 62 miles from Barcelona
Earlier, the father of two dead Spanish terrorists insisted they were ‘good boys’ whose minds were poisoned by the radical imam.
Brahmim Aallaa, 50, is the father of 18-year-old Said Aallaa, who was shot dead by police during a car and knife attack in Cambrils, and Youssef Aallaa, 22, who is presumed killed by an explosion at a bomb-factory in the town of Alcanar.
Mr Aallaa, who is from Morocco, pointed the finger of blame for his sons’ fate at Abdelbaki Es Satty.
Speaking to The Times, he said: ‘The town’s imam might have influenced them.
‘They were all good boys, including my sons, but something has happened to them. All the [dead] boys have gone to a better place. It has been a great sadness for us.’
Maria Alba Martinez, whose family employed Said Aallaa at their café, said families had become more hardline since Es Satty arrived.
The most noticeable change was in young women who started wearing hijabs, despite having never done so before.
Mr Aallaa’s comments echo those by parents of other attackers.
The father of Moussa Oukabir, who also died in Cambrils, said his 17-year-old son lived a ‘normal’ life, attending school at playing football for the local club, until he suddenly became more religious.
Last week, a 12-strong terror cell launched attacks in northern Spain leaving 14 dead and around 130 injured. Pictured, the van used in the attack
Said Aallaa, 18, was shot dead in the attack on Cambrils while brother Youssef Aallaa, 22, is thought to have been killed in a bomb factory explosion in Alcanar. Their father Brahmim said they were ‘good boys’ who were radicalised by imam Abdelbaki Es Satty
Es Satty preached in the town of Ripoll, where 11 of the 12 attackers were from. Locals say families started becoming more hardline when he moved there two years ago
He claims the same is true of his oldest son Driss Oukabir – who was aged ten when the family moved from Morocco to join their father in Spain and is still being questioned by anti-terrorist police.
Said Oukabir told Spanish media: ‘I can’t accept the fact that my sons are main suspects of a terrorist attack.
‘I never noticed any sign of radicalisation in their behaviours. They live just like other boys at their age.
‘Moussa was a nice boy. He never hurt anyone. He had been focused on their studies and was willing to pass the baccalaureate exam next year.
‘Recently however he started praying in a regular way. He never missed the time of his prayers.
‘But it was limited to praying, he did not go further. Moussa was young, and not mature yet. I think someone messed with his mind.’
Es Satty preached at a mosque in the south of the city, just a 15 minute walk from the apartment where suspected Barcelona van driver Younes Abouyaacoub lived.
Moussa Oukabir also rented an apartment just a few streets from the mosque which he shared with Mohamed Hychami before the pair were shot dead on Friday morning as they launched a car and knife attack in Cambrils.
They were killed alongside Omar Hychami and Houssaine Abouyaaqoub, both from Ripoll, and Said Aallaa who was from Ribes de Freser, which is a short distance away.
Meanwhile Salah El Karib, Mohamad Aallaa and a third unknown suspect who has not yet been identified were arrested at their homes in the north end of the town in the wake of the atrocity.
Driss Oubakir, the brother of Moussa, was also arrested in Ripoll after his identity was apparently stolen in order to rent the van used in the attack.
Moussa Oukabir, left, was shot dead by Spanish police in Cambrils on Thursday. He lived in the same apartment complex as Mohamed Hychami, right, who was also shot dead by police
The pair lived together in this apartment block, just a few streets away from the mosque where suspected plot mastermind Es Satty preached
Police believe the property was being used as a bomb-making factory to carry out a much larger atrocity before it was accidentally destroyed.
Youssef Aallaa is thought to have died alongside Satty, while suspected bomb-maker Mohamed Houli Chemlal was pulled from the rubble and is now in custody.
Hechami Gasi, the father of Omar and Mohamed Hychami who were shot dead in Cambrils, pointed the finger of blame at Imam Es Satty as he claimed they must have been brainwashed because they were ‘good boys.’
He told Catalan daily La Vanguardia from his home in Ripoll: ‘I don’t how they could have committed such evil, so much damage.
‘I don’t know what they did to my boys’ heads. I can assure you they were good boys, normal boys.
‘One worked in an important company in the area called Conforsa and the other was a welder in the town of Vic.
‘I don’t understand what has happened . I don’t know what to feel. They are my sons but look at the evil they have done.’
Neighbours of fugitive terrorist Younis Abouyaacoub have told of their shock that the smiling 22-year-old was involved with the horrific terrorist outrage.
Mohamed Bernadi, who lives in the same block of flats as Abouyaacoub, said: ‘These [Younis and other terrorists] boys were always good people.
‘It’s a real shame what has happened. The religion [Islam], like other religions, is of peace and merciful. These boys are not this.’
Mr Bernadi said the suspected terrorist lived with his parents, his four-year-old and ten-year-old brothers, and his sister who is around five years old.
Juan Gallego, 47, said: ‘I had no idea and he didn’t look like someone with this kind of ideology.
Spanish police are hunting Younis Abouyaacoub (left) who is believed to be part of the terror cell which struck on Thursday. Pictured right is his brother Houssaine, who was shot dead
A CCTV image of Younis Abouyaaqoub, pictured, was released by Spanish police hours before Thursday’s attack taken from a bank in Ripoll
‘He dressed normally – a regular guy, sometimes they dressed up for their celebrations. I assumed they were religious.
‘I knew who he was but I didn’t know him personally. They have been living here for years.
‘He was a normal person. You wouldn’t suspect that he could do a thing like this.
‘Everything that’s happened, it’s surprising, it’s strange.
‘I mean, you don’t expect people like this to be in your own block, especially when they’re good people without a criminal record.’
Another neighbour added: ‘They are like everyone here – totally normal people who are nice to everybody. It’s shocking.’
He said that Younes had not been seen since Thursday’s attack.
Halima, the wife of Salh el Karib, who was arrested in Ripoll on Friday, has protested his innocence.
She told Spanish media: ‘We are all Muslims and we don’t like these attacks any more than anyone else.’
Other neighbours claim that the van used to kill and maim dozens in Las Ramblas had been parked in the street close to Abouyaaqoub’s home the night before the terrorist outrage.
Juan, 45, told MailOnline: ‘The white van that those sons of bitches used to kill people was parked here in the street the night before the attack.
‘It was the same van that was used in Las Ramblas. I recognized the van from the reports on the TV. I saw them pulling stickers off the side of the van.’
Meanwhile anti-terrorist police continued to monitor everyone entering and leaving Ripoll that fugitive Abouyaacoub other terror suspects called home.
Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said five members of the cell were shot dead, four were in custody and as many as two were killed in the explosion.
He said no new attacks were imminent, the country’s terrorist threat alert will be maintained at level four, and security at popular events and tourist sites around the country will be reinforced.
Heavily armed officers carried out random searches of vehicles entering the small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains some 65 miles from Barcelona.
It has since emerged baby-faced terrorist Moussa Oukabir travelled to Morocco to ‘say goodbye’ to his family before taking part in last week’s Spanish atrocity.
Police believe the 17-year-old spent around 10 days in his parents’ homeland, Spanish daily La Razon said.
Claiming Oukabir, who posted online two years ago that he wanted to ‘kill the infidels’, is thought to have made his farewell trip to Morocco from August 3 to 13, the paper cited a police source as saying: ‘Given his suicidal profile, he went to say goodbye to his family, a pre-requisite to become a Jihad hero.’
Reports about the goodbye trip of Moussa, initially identified as the driver of the van that killed 13 people on Las Ramblas, emerged as the father of two other terrorists admitted he was baffled by the ‘damage’ they had done.
Said Aalla, 18, anther of the terrorists believed to have been killed in Cambrils, was made class delegate at his school because of the ‘trust and confidence’ he commanded among his peers, it emerged earlier.
There was a heavy police presence around Ripoll following Thursday’s terrorist attack
Omar Hychami was shot dead in Cambrils (left). Mohamed Houli Chemlal (right) was injured in the Alcanar blast and is under arrest. He is suspected of being the group’s bomb-maker
Well-respected Catalan daily El Periodico published a picture of him as a primary school pupil – smiling with a toothy grin as he stood alongside classmates in a blue school top over his jeans.
A former pupil of at the school of Omar Hychami and Mohamed Houli, 21, from Morocco, who has been named as one of the suspects under arrest after being injured in an explosion at a house in Alcanar 125 miles south west of Barcelona where bombs were being prepared, told the paper: ‘I remember them speaking among themselves in Arabic.
‘We used to say to them, ‘Hey, speak in Catalan’ but always in a jokey way because they never gave us any cause for suspicion, quite the contrary.
‘They were just normal classmates at that time. But now you can’t help asking yourself what on earth they were talking about, because of the barbaric things people say they have done.’
Police believe three people may have died in the blast although they are awaiting analysis of DNA samples.
Earlier it was claimed the Catalan terror attacks were organised from Syria, using ‘catalyst agents’ who are now filling the gap left by the ‘current inability’ of European-based terror cell chiefs to travel to the Middle East to take orders from ISIS leaders.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the the deadly Las Ramblas terror attack.
Respected Spanish daily La Razon, citing anti-terrorist sources, said: ‘An indeterminate number of ‘catalysers’ are now in countries like France, Belgium or Germany and their presence in Spain has not been ruled out.
‘What experts have guaranteed is that at least one member of the ‘Las Ramblas cell’ spoke to one of these individuals who gave them instructions on how and where they should commit the terror attacks.
‘They also showed them how to make the explosive TATP that was being prepared, given that the jihadist leaders have discovered that with the manuals and videos that are out there online, people don’t learn enough.’
Meanwhile, anti-terror police have launched a raid on a property in Manlleu earlier today as part of the hunt for Abouyaaquob.
Close friends and associates of the fugitive live in Manlleu, according to Spanish media.
Police are believed to be searching the home of his best friend.
THE TERROR CELL: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
A total of 12 people are thought to have belonged to a single terror cell operating out of Ripoll and Alcanar that was behind the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils this week.
Police say the same group was also responsible for an explosion in Alcanar on Wednesday after accidentally blowing up their own bomb-making factory, killing at least one and injuring 16.
The factory was likely being used to prepare a much worse attack, and the explosion could have prompted Thursday and Friday’s atrocities as members who survived the blast acted before they could be caught, investigators say.
At least six members of the cell have been confirmed as dead, while another may have perished in the Alcanar explosion. Four more are under arrest, while only one remains on the run. They are:
Two of the terror cell are believed to have died in an explosion at a home in Alcanar, 120 miles from Barcelona. It is believed plotters were stockpiling deadly butane gas to use in the attack
DEAD: Moussa Oukabir – Shot dead in Cambrils on Friday morning after launching a gun and knife attack on pedestrians. He was initially named as the driver of the van in Barcelona, but that was later retracted
DEAD: Said Aallaa – The 18-year-old was from the village of Ribes de Freser and shot dead in Cambrils
DEAD: Mohamed Hychami – The 24-year-old lived in Ripoll and was shot dead by a police officer in Cambrils
DEAD: Omar Hychami – Mohamed’s brother, died alongside him in Cambrils. Their father believes they were radicalised by local imam Abdelbaki Es Satty
DEAD: Houssaine Abouyaaqoub – From Ripoll and shot dead in Cambrils, he is the brother of the Barcelona van driver suspect
Terrorists Moussa Oukabir, left, and Said Aalaa, right were shot dead by police
Sahal el Karib, left, and Mohamed Aalaa, right, have both been arrested
POSSIBLY DEAD: Abdelbaki Es Satty – Thought to have masterminded the plot, he preached at a mosque in Ripoll where most of the attackers and suspects lived. Police think he may have been killed in the explosion in Alcanar, but are still investigating
LIKELY DEAD: Youssef Aallaa – Spanish police say he was almost certainly killed in the blast in Alcanar
Spanish police are currently hunting for Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22
ARRESTED: Mohamed Houli Chemlal – Pulled from the rubble of the house in Alcanar, he was wounded but not killed and is now in detention. He is believed to be the group’s bomb-maker
ARRESTED: Salah El Karib – The owner of an internet cafe in Ripoll, he was detained on Friday at his house in the town’s north. His wife has protested his innocence
ARRESTED: Mohamed Aalaa – Owner of the car used in the Cambrils attack. Also detained at his house in north Ripoll on Friday. He is the brother of dead Cambrils attacker Said
ARRESTED: Driss Oubakir – The brother of dead Cambrils attacker Moussa. He handed himself over to police after it was revealed documents in his name were used to rent the van used in the Barcelona attack. He remains in detention and is being questioned
ARRESTED: Unknown suspect – Pictured being led away from a property in north Ripoll in a blue cap
MISSING: Younes Abouyaaqoub – Believed to be the man behind the wheel of the van that killed 13 on Las Ramblas. He is now on the run, and police say he may have walked across the border to France
Youseff Aallaa, left is believed to have died in an explosion while making a bomb alongside Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, right
Arrested: One of those being questioned by police is Driss Oukabir, whose picture was released in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s atrocity. He later handed himself in to police, claiming his younger brother Moussa had stolen his ID documents in order to rent a van used in the attack