Student planning Columbine-style massacre arrested in Mallorca

Spaniard, 21, taken into custody after receiving delivery of bomb-making chemicals

Madrid / Palma de Mallorca - 04 Oct 2012 - 12:37
A police photo of the chemicals found at the 21-year-old's home.
A police photo of the chemicals found at the 21-year-old's home.EFE

A 21-year-old electronics student was arrested in Palma de Mallorca on Wednesday on the suspicion that he was planning a Columbine-style massacre at the University of the Balearic Islands, where he had previously studied.

Around 10 police officers swooped on Juan Manuel M. S. at 10am according to neighbors, just after he had received a delivery of more than 140 kilos of bomb-making materials that he had purchased via the internet.

The arrest took place when Juan Manuel was returning from having his hair cut, according to a neighbor from his floor, who had seen him in the building moments before. Five officers had been watching him over the last five weeks from the terrace of a bar in front of the house, taking morning and afternoon shifts in order to monitor the front door of the building. Only the owner of the establishment was aware of the operation, although another neighbor had noticed an unmarked police car parked nearby.

In the personal diary of Juan Manuel, and in documents the police located in his house, the suspect had written extensively about his hatred for society, in particular his fellow university students.

He had written about his plans to plant pipe bombs filled with shrapnel in the university, and was planning to take his own life as part of the massacre, according to the Interior Ministry.

The frustrated terrorist was not acting out of ideological hatred, according to the same sources, who also said the suspect was of Spanish nationality.

Sources from the investigation say he appeared to be a normal adolescent, but bit by bit started to show hatred toward society. His clothing corresponded to a goth or emo style, according to the same sources, and he apparently reminded investigators of Anders Behring Breivik, who carried out a massacre in Norway in July 2011 — albeit without the Nazi ideology that had motivated the Norwegian.

Juan Manuel had been living alone for the last two months in a refurbished flat in Can Gotleu street, in the old town of Palma de Mallorca, which contains a large number of cheap properties for rent and is also a popular nightlife area. According to police sources, he had been raising money by playing poker and other such games online. Until now he had no police record.

The police investigation began five months ago when a number of comments made by the suspect alluding to the Columbine High School massacre, which took place in the US in 1999, were picked up on the internet. Juan Manuel M. S. expressed his sympathy for the perpetrators of the killings, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 12 students and one teacher.

In his blog, Juan Manuel M. S. wrote about having the same musical interests as the Columbine killers and also showed an interest in weapons.

During the course of the investigation, the suspect made several attempts to acquire illegal arms as well as a firearms license, but was ultimately unsuccessful. As a result, he obtained a large amount of chemicals and explosive substances, which, as he explained in his blog, he knew how to mix to make a number of different types of bomb.

Among the materials that police found to be in his possession were 125 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, which can be used on its own as an explosive; 12 kilos of potassium nitrate; 500 grams of sodium sulfate; a liter of nitric acid and another liter of sulfuric acid. The suspect had also acquired a number of crowbars, which he was going to use to arm the bombs, and could also have been useful to force open locks of places from where he was planning to steal arms. According to his diary, he had already identified a number of targets, given his inability to get his hands on weapons any other way.

The police operation, dubbed “Columbainero,” was carried out by the Information Brigade of the Balearic Islands, in conjunction with the Technology Investigation Brigade of the National Police Force.

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