Thursday 22 February 2018

'Errors by police' saw chance to foil Barcelona terror attack lost

People stand next to candles and flowers after the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: AP/Santi Palaciosas
People stand next to candles and flowers after the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: AP/Santi Palaciosas

Angus Berwick

Regional police in Spain may have missed an opportunity to uncover a militant plot ahead of last week's deadly Barcelona attack due to procedural errors and a lack of communication among investigators, two police sources and two individuals close to the investigation said.

The errors and miscommunication centred around a major blast on August 16, the eve of the attack, at a house where suspected Islamist militants were making explosives, the sources said.

For several hours, Catalan police did not link the explosion to militancy and so no public alarm was raised, before an accomplice drove a van into crowds in Barcelona, killing 13 people in Spain's deadliest attack in more than a decade.

Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, also took 10 hours to send bomb experts to the scene of the explosion in a town about 200km south-west of Barcelona, the region's capital, delaying the discovery of the militant cell, the sources added.

The sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue or because they were not authorised to speak to the press.

A judicial source said that, as part of the investigation into the attacks, police would look at whether a lack of co-ordination or information-sharing had contributed to the delay in discovering links between militancy and the explosion.

The source said police needed to complete the investigation before reaching any conclusions about possible errors.

Mossos chief Josep Lluis Trapero told reporters that it was unfair to criticise his force with the benefit of hindsight.

"Now, with all the information that we have, yes, it is easier to make the link, but that's playing dirty and it deceives people," Mr Trapero told a news conference.

In response to questions about the agency's handling of the attack, a spokesman for the Mossos declined to comment and referred to Mr Trapero's comments at the press briefing.

Irish Independent

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