TERRORISM

Spain beefs up security to prevent Berlin-style terrorist attack

Madrid drafts in 2,000 extra police officers to monitor key areas of city center until January 7

The recent terrorist attack in Berlin on a Christmas market, in which a large truck was driven into a crowded open-air market, set alarm bells ringing in Spain’s Interior Ministry. Given the large numbers of people who descend on the country‘s cities at this time of year, Spanish security forces have put together a special plan aimed at reinforcing the safety of the public.

Police in central Madrid over the Christmas period.
Police in central Madrid over the Christmas period.Carlos Rosillo

In Madrid, an additional unit will be in place during certain dates and in key areas, according to ministry sources, which will include 1,900 offices watching over the central Puerta del Sol square during the ringing in of the New Year, as well as the San Silvestre Vallecana fun run on New Year’s Eve, followed by the Three Kings parades on January 5.

The police will be using bollards to block off streets in a bid to avoid attacks such as those seen last week in Germany and during the summer in Nice, France.

I want to emphasize that there is no specific threat at the current time Concepción Dancausa, Central Government Delegate to Madrid

“The latest attacks in Europe have prompted a strengthening of the measures adopted by the state security forces,” ministry sources said, adding that in several Spanish cities “specific security units, designed by government delegations in conjunction with councils” will be deployed.

However, the central government delegate in Madrid, Concepción Dancausa, was keen to play down the risk to the public. “I want to emphasize that there is no specific threat at the current time,” she said on Tuesday.

Spain is currently on a level four terrorist alert, the highest since the 11-M train attacks at Atocha station in 2004. The alert was raised in June 2015 in the wake of attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, and means increased monitoring of critical infrastructure such as airports, nuclear power plants and travel hubs. In addition, all security forces dedicated to terrorism prevention, investigation and information collection have been put on alert.

In Catalonia, Barcelona will be the main focus of the attention of the authorities, with a special unit due to be deployed for New Year’s Eve. The priority is to avoid the Catalan capital becoming a target for a terrorist attack. “We are working along the same lines as last year,” sources from the Mossos d’Esquadra regional police force explained.

In the Valencia region, meanwhile, the police presence will also be boosted during events expected to attract a lot of people. “But I don’t think announcing all of the security measures is the most appropriate thing to do,” said the regional security chief, Anaïs Menguzzato, on Tuesday.

With reporting by Jesús García, Alfonso Congostrina, Cristina Vázquez and Esperanza Codina.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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