A significant increase in the number of messages referring to Spain on social network accounts with ties to the Islamic State was one of the key reasons that Madrid raised the national terror alert level on June 26.
Although the government is not aware of any specific threat of an imminent attack on Spanish soil, it decided to increase its terrorism threat level from three (medium) to four (high) on a scale of five.
Experts have not only detected a greater number of references to Spain in online conversations within radical Islamic circles, but the gravity of the violence expressed in these messages is also increasing.
We have to be very vigilant, because these people have the ability to plan and execute an attack in very little time”
The decision was also partly triggered by the June 26 chain of attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, where a Spanish-run hotel was targeted. However, anti-terrorist sources have since said that the main objective of the latter strike was to kill foreign tourists rather than specifically attack a Spanish firm.
The general sense of alarm in Europe and the fact that the Islamic caliphate recently observed its first anniversary also contributed to Spanish authorities’ decision to increase the terror alert level.
Experts underscore that the threat from the Islamic State is “global, real and permanent,” although they insist that they have no intelligence about any specific action.
“We have to be very vigilant, because these people have the ability to plan and execute an attack on very short notice,” said a source with the Spanish anti-terrorist services.
Agents monitoring the internet for threats to Spain from radical Islamists found two types of message. The first contained actual threats against the country, while the second sought to recruit new followers.
On Monday, a Moroccan national arrested in Badalona (Barcelona province) was sent to prison by a judge for trying to recruit jihadists online among the local Muslim community.
Last month, coinciding with the first anniversary of the foundation of the caliphate on June 29, Islamic State supporters launched 73 propaganda campaigns and released videos showing 56 people being beheaded – representing a significant upsurge in the group’s online terror campaign.
Anti-terrorist services have identified 115 foreign fighters who have left Spain to join the Islamic State's ranks in Syria and Iraq. These individuals pose a particular risk upon their return as trained combatants, as the recent attack in France demonstrated.