Isis has quickly claimed the twin terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils – but even before a statement was issued by the group’s media channel Amaq, supporters online were celebrating the latest jihadi carnage on European soil.
At least 13 people died and more than 100 were injured after a van ploughed into people on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas on Thursday evening. Later that night, police shot and killed five men in the coastal town of Cambrils – some of whom are reported to have been wearing explosive belts – after six bystanders and one police officer were also run over.
A statement carried on Amaq said that “the perpetrators of Barcelona attack are [Isis] soldiers and carried out the operation in response to appeals targeting coalition countries.” Spain is part of the international coalition lending military support and airpower to local Iraqi and Syrian forces targeting the group in its so-called caliphate.
As has become the norm in the aftermath of these attacks, social media posts celebrating the violence quickly popped up in Telegram channels used by Isis supporters.
Images and posts praising the carnage appeared. Previous threats to “reconquer al-Andalus” and of an “imminent attack” in Spain were also recirculated, although it’s not clear if they have any connection to Thursday’s events.
6. Pro-ISIS channels have just started posting in Spanish. Here is Yaqeen, one of their well-known watering holes: pic.twitter.com/g48pMNEnPe— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) August 17, 2017
Several pro-Isis channels put out messages in Spanish such as “Kill the Spanish pigs” and users changed their profile pictures to Driss Oukabir, the Moroccan national in custody on suspicion of carrying out the Barcelona attack. “We are doing their children a favour by killing them,” one supporter said.
Earlier this year Isis issued detailed guidance to its followers on how to commit “low tech” massacres using lorries, vans and cars, as well as instructions on how to launch knife attacks and take hostages.
The move away from sophisticated explosives and firearms is supposed to make it harder for the authorities to detect planned attacks.
The events in Spain mirror several other incidents across Europe over the past two years: the UK suffered from car ramming attacks near Parliament in March and in London Bridge and Finsbury Park in June.
Another attacker hijacked a lorry and drove it into a department store in Stockholm in April, killing five people.
In 2016, the Berlin Christmas market attack killed 12, and the Bastille Day attack in Nice killed 86.
Thursday’s incidents in Spain are Isis’s first successful attack in the country, and the first jihadi terror attack in the country since 2004, when a cell linked to al-Qaeda blew up four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 192.