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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Father of Barcelona suspects blames local imam for radicalising youths

Hechami Gasi, father of two of the suspects, said his sons might have been radicalised by a neighbourhood imam Abdelbaki Es Satty

The president of Ripoll’s Annour Islamic community Ali Yassine, left, and spokesman Hamid Barbach are seen at a mosque where imam Abdelbaki Es Satty preached in Ripoll, north of Barcelona, Spain. Satty has been accused of radicalising the youths in the city. Albert Gea/Reuters
The president of Ripoll’s Annour Islamic community Ali Yassine, left, and spokesman Hamid Barbach are seen at a mosque where imam Abdelbaki Es Satty preached in Ripoll, north of Barcelona, Spain. Satty has been accused of radicalising the youths in the city. Albert Gea/Reuters

The father of two of the suspects in the Barcelona attack has blamed a neighbourhood imam, who is missing and believed dead, for turning the group of local youths into terrorists.

Abdelbaki Es Satty, who had been a prayer leader at two small mosques in the Catalan town of Ripoll, disappeared from his apartment on Tuesday.

The authorities believe that Satty may have been killed in an explosion a day later at an abandoned villa in the coastal town of Alcanar that the extremists had turned into a bomb factory.

Hechami Gasi, father of Mohamed and Omar Hychami, residents of Ripoll who were killed last week, said he suspected his sons were radicalised by the mysterious interloper.

“I don’t know what’s happened, I don’t know how to feel, they’re my sons but look at the evil they’ve done,” said Mr Gasi, whose sons were shot dead in Cambrils in the early hours of Friday morning. “The imam must have put these ideas in their heads. They were good boys.”

Officials are working on the assumption that Satty was making final preparations for a spectacular attack on Barcelona. It appears he recruited the suspects identified by the security forces: the Hychami brothers, Driss and Moussa Oukabir and Younes Abouyaaqoub, who is still on the run. Said Aallaa, another supposed member of the cell, is from a town 13 kilometres away.

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Satty moved to the Catalan town - where five of those in the cell grew up - after he was released from prison in 2014. While the authorities have confirmed that they have made positive identifications from remains found in a destroyed complex in Alcanzar, there is no official word that Satty was indeed at the scene.

Satty had been jailed on cannabis smuggling offences in 2010. The Moroccan-born man reportedly associated with Rachid Aglif, who was jailed for 18 years for participating in the 2004 train bombings in Madrid that killed 192.

According to Ripoll’s Annour Islamic community, Satty led prayers at two district mosques but stopped participating in acts of worship two months ago. At that time, he had told residents he would moving to Belgium, a country that has hosted terror cells with links to ISIL organisers in Syria. However, it appears Satty instead spent the next few weeks between his apartment in Ripoll and the bomb factory in Alcanar.

Local Muslim leaders repudiated Satty on Sunday, expressing their shock at the allegations.

“Faced with this criminal act, the Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll reiterates its complete commitment to the fight against any form of terrorism, and we hope that those responsible for this attack are arrested and taken before a judge as soon as possible,” a notice posted on a Ripoll mosque said.

A flatmate at his small home said that Satty had left the apartment on Tuesday, telling him he would be returning to Morocco for a few months. Inside Satty's flat, the only traces of the tenant were scraps of paper covered in notes strewn around, a picture of a mosque on the wall and a mattress on the living room floor.

"It seems like a bad dream. I have no idea how this happened," said Fatima Abouyaaqoub, a cousin of Younes, one of the named suspects on the run.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, who was detained after being wounded in the explosion, has been named as the possible bomb maker in the plot by Catalan police spokesman, Josep Lluis Trapero.

"We're starting to see clearly that [the Alcanar house] was the place where they were preparing explosives for one or more attacks in the city of Barcelona,” he said.

More than 100 household gas cylinders were found at the house, and also, according to Spanish media, traces of TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, a highly volatile explosive nicknamed "the mother of Satan" by terrorist plotters.

Updated: August 20, 2017 08:41 PM

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