The world was shocked by the 17 August attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. Prior to those awful attacks, Spain had managed to avoid or prevent acts of terrorism, and Barcelona was perceived as a "safer" destination.
Were The Warnings Ignored?
The media has focused on information indicating that authorities had been warned of an attack on Las Ramblas almost two months before the incident. Police, according to The Times, admitted that they “did not believe the tip was credible.”
It is also claimed that, “Plans to install bollards to guard against vehicle attacks were rejected by Barcelona city council before the attacks, on the grounds that they would change the character of Las Ramblas and would not enhance overall security.”
We don’t know how the tips were presented or who the sources were, but we wonder what else could have been done to prevent the attacks. Perhaps bollards are an important tactic for all major streets. These can be disguised as attractive large planters – so do not need to look unattractive.
Should authorities have cleared the heart of Barcelona and stopped people from walking on Las Ramblas? If they had done so, they would have created a lot of fear and the perpetrators may have simply chosen another target.
What is already being done to prevent terrorism in Spain?
What needs to happen in the future?
Business Insider UK has published an insightful analysis of the attacks, along with some intriguing statistics from West Point’s ‘Combating Terrorism Centre’.
They reveal that since 2004, 720 people have been detained in Spain in connection with “Jihadi terrorism” and that 265 were arrested between 2013 and 2016. The vast majority were Spanish (41.5%) and Moroccan (42.7%).
90% of those detained were radicalised in their home country (i.e. Spain or Morocco) and 86.9% were in contact with a “radicalising agent” at some point.
The study concludes that priorities should be:
- “To detect radicalizing agents and neutralize their actions by means of law enforcement.”
- “To focus programs aimed at preventing these processes on localized demarcations where Jihadi radicalization is known to concentrate, avoiding dispersion of institutional efforts.”
Highly popular areas, where there is a guaranteed high volume of people, need to take action, to protect from the sort of attacks that we see on an all too regular basis today. The use of vehicles is an easy and effective means of terror, which has been used frequently, and one that can be combatted relatively simply by creating safe areas.
Who Can Be Affected?
Each act of terrorism is different, and in each case, travellers and travel service providers respond differently. In this instance, two cruise ships cancelled shore excursions scheduled for the next day, however many others continued with their planned activities and excursions.
With other incidents, we have seen airports closed, extensive delays and cancelled flights, and the closure of major attractions such as Disneyland Paris.
The bottom line: it’s almost impossible to predict, and comprehensive terrorism cover can give you a lot more freedom to make choices you are comfortable with following an act of terrorism.
For example, travellers with Safe Journey policies who were scheduled to visit Barcelona in the days following the attack would have been covered for cancellation or curtailment of their trips. This element of cover – also called disinclination to travel – applies if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks prior to your departure. This is only one element of Safe Journey though – click here for full details of cover, exclusions, terms and conditions.
One More Lesson: Hope
Despite the shock of the attacks, an estimated 500,000 people marched in Barcelona on 26 August to show that they refuse to live in fear.
The marchers were joined by King Felipe VI, as well as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. Similar demonstrations of peace have happened around the world after recent attacks.
We stand with Barcelona, and with Paris, Nice, Brussels, Manchester, London, and every other city affected by terrorism, with the slogan used in the Barcelona march: #NoTincPor – I'm Not Afraid.
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