The Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, last night maintained their initial theory that an attack by a 29-year-old Algerian man in a police station in Cornellà (Barcelona) on Monday morning was an act of terrorism. Abdelouahab Taib entered the precinct with a knife at 5.55am, and was reportedly shouting “Allah” as well as phrases in Arabic. He tried to attack a female police officer, according to the official version of events, prompting her to fire her service weapon at him, killing him in the process. The police are now investigating the personal situation of the man, whose wife had discovered that he was homosexual.
Taib had no prior criminal record and was not on the radar of the authorities in terms of terrorism or radicalization
According to police sources, Taib had no prior criminal record and was not on the radar of the authorities in terms of terrorism or radicalization. Taib had spent “a number of years” in Spain, and more than two years in Cornellà, which is located in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. He had a Spanish Foreign Identity Number (NIE) thanks to his marriage to the Spanish woman, with whom he lived in an apartment just 150 meters from the police precinct. His wife, neighbors reported, had converted to Islam after meeting him and had begun to wear the traditional Islamic veil as well as long clothing to cover up her arms and legs.
In its investigations, the Spanish High Court is not ruling out a terrorist motive. But based on the information it has so far, they are giving priority to the theory that he acted due to “personal motivations channeled from a religious point of view,” according to sources from the public prosecutor. Before the attack, Taib left a message for his partner saying: “I’m going, inshallah, to the Great Place up there.”
He also left behind two other pieces of paper with texts in Arabic. One had printed on it the phrase: “May God take you into his heart, my friend.” The second, which was handwritten, was a letter in which the author calls on God to forgive him. According to radio network Cadena SER, the seven lines – presumably written by Taib – use ceremonial phrases addressed to God in which he calls for help and for his blessing for what he is about to do.
Investigators believe that this was a kind of prayer written by the man. None of the documents, sources say, make reference to jihad.
According to sources from the public prosecutor, Taib attacked the officer “with the intention of killing or dying while killing.” He was, the prosecutor claims, seeking a kind of religious salvation for what he considered to be the sin of being homosexual.
His wife, neighbors reported, had converted to Islam after meeting him and had begun to wear the traditional Islamic veil
Taib and his wife had reportedly been having problems since he confessed to her that he was gay, according to the statement she gave to the Mossos as a witness in the investigation. That prompted her to distance herself from him, and when she told him she was planning to leave him, Taib began to express “suicidal ideas,” according to her statement. Taib’s apparent main fear was that the Muslim community would discover his sexual orientation, which, he explained to his wife, would bring him shame and dishonor.
According to the woman’s statement to the Mossos, she suspected that he had only married her in order to secure his residency papers.
Taib had also begun to display behavior recently suggesting a greater commitment to his religion. During their press conference on Monday evening, the Mossos insisted that the motive for the attack was terrorism, but they did open the door to the possibility that other personal circumstances could have influenced the Algerian man’s behavior.
A search of the couple’s apartment yesterday did not turn up explosives or firearms.
CCTV footage being examined by investigators shows Taib enter the precinct and launch himself on the female officer, who was sat in a chair. The knife he was carrying passed close by the body of the Mosso, who managed to get away from the man. She fired at least four shots at him, three of which hit his leg, arm and head.
His wife suspected that he had only married her in order to secure his residency papers
The attack came just three days after the first anniversary of the terrorist atrocities carried out in Catalonia in 2017, which saw 16 people killed in two separate incidents, the first in the central Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona and the second in the seaside town of Cambrils. The European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol had sent out an alert on August 17 that a message was circulating via messaging application Telegram with a picture of two Mossos officers and a hand with a knife superimposed over it, with a message in English reading “answer the call” – the phrase used by Islamic State to incite Muslims to carry out attacks. Counter-terrorism sources said that this detail backs the hypothesis that the Cornellà incident was terror related.
English version by Simon Hunter.