Spain has raised its terror threat level in the wake of Wednesday’s attack on the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead and four critically injured.
Just hours after the shooting rampage, Spanish authorities announced a level three alert, out of a maximum of four.
“The level is being raised, even if it is in a transitory manner, without there being a specific threat against Spain,” said Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz after speaking with his French counterpart and meeting for over an hour with Spanish law enforcement, counter-terrorism and intelligence leaders.
The minister is also concerned about a possible “copycat effect in Spain”
“The current international scenario means we can talk about a generic threat that is shared by all Western countries in general,” he added.
The government has also launched an “urgent” plan to protect critical infrastructure that could be the target of jihadist attacks, such as airports, nuclear plants and train stations.
Spain had been at level two since September 2 because of concerns regarding intelligence information about combatants returning to Spain from conflict areas in the Sahel region, Libya, Syria and Iraq. These combat-trained jihadists are considered extremely dangerous by anti-terrorism experts.
The minister is also concerned about a possible “copycat effect in Spain” after the offices of several media outlets had to be evacuated on Wednesday following bomb threats, including those of EL PAÍS.
“There is a clear battle between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to become terror leaders. And this increases the risk of attacks,” said Fernández Díaz.
Counter-terrorism experts note that one leader of the Islamic State has identified Spain as a target in one of his most recent videos, and called for the “reconquest” of Al-Andalus, the name given to the parts of modern Spain and Portugal that were under Islamic rule in medieval times.