Global terrorism

El Cordobés, the Spanish face of Islamic State

Muhammad Ahram Pérez, aged 22, described as quiet and studious by former neighbors in Cordoba

The video featuring Muhammad Ahram Pérez.EPV

The individual speaking in a video by the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, a week after the terrorist attacks in Catalonia, and warning of more attacks in Spain, has been identified as Muhammad Yasin Ahram Pérez, a 22-year-old Spanish national from the southern city of Córdoba, whose father, Abdelah Ahram, a 42-year-old Moroccan, is currently in prison in Tangier for his active role in radical jihadism.

Ahram Pérez, alias El Cordobés, left Córdoba at the age of six with his mother, Tomasa Pérez, who is from a Catholic family in Malaga, in 2014, along with his five siblings for Syria to live in territory controlled by ISIS.

They never had anything to do with the neighbors, although the children went to school Neighbor of Ahram Pérez

The video was the first in Spanish by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), which has claimed responsibility for the terror attacks in Catalonia that claimed the lives of 15 people last week.

Neighbors in the working-class Alcolea neighborhood of Córdoba say they were shocked to learn of Ahram Pérez’s role in ISIS, describing him as quiet child who never played in the street with other children.

Ahram Pérez’s mother reportedly met his father in 1994, when she was in the third year of high school, dropping out soon after. “He brainwashed her, but the thing is she was a minor,” says somebody who knew her at the time. A year later, she gave birth to Mohamed, the first of her six children. After the second was born, the family moved to Alcolea.

“The kids never played in the street. They were always indoors. When Dolores, Tomasa’s landlady, asked her why she wore a veil, told her rudely that if she didn’t like it, she would move house,” says Antonia Moreno, a former neighbor. After two years in Córdoba, the family moved to Barcelona and from there to Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in North Africa. In 2014, they moved to Syria.

The house where Ahram Pérez grew up.
The house where Ahram Pérez grew up.PACO PUENTES

“The husband worked nights, but they never had anything to do with the neighbors, even though the children went to school,” said Ana Gómez, another neighbor.

Counter-terrorism sources say Ahram Pérez has used several identities in recent years while fighting in Syria.

In the video, Ahram Pérez and another man can be heard speaking Spanish: “Allah willing, Al Andalus will become once again what it was, part of the caliphate.” Al Andalus was the name given to the territory of southern and central Spain controlled for more than five centuries by Muslims.

Later, Ahram Perez warns: “Spanish Christians: don’t forget the Muslim blood spilled during the Spanish inquisition. We will take revenge for your massacre, the one you are carrying out now against the Islamic State."

Without doubt, the threat against Spain has increased Javier Lesaca, expert on ISIS propaganda

Experts in counter-terrorism are taking the warnings seriously.

“This is the first time that ISIS has used a Spanish national in an official communication. This is an important step and alarming, because it has been proven that its campaigns generate changes in behavior,” says Javier Lesaca, a researcher at the George Washington University and the author of a book on ISIS propaganda.

“Furthermore, this is the first video to target Spain directly, and without being simplistic, terrorists follow such advice. Without doubt, the threat against Spain has increased,” adds Lesaca.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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