Would you feel safe knowing that an Al Qaeda terrorist was freely walking around the streets of Gib and working for a legitimately registered business here?
People may or may not have heard that three suspected Al Qaeda terrorists were arrested late Wed/early Thursday in southern Spain.
One was arrested at a flat in La Linea (the border town in Cadiz province across the frontier from Gibraltar) and the other two were on a bus in Almuradiel which is in the province of Cuidad Real, just across the border from the Andalucían province of Jaen.
I saw this on the BBC webs site when I was in the midst of writing my blog post about not blogging much during August! Oh no. Such a missed opportunity.
Yesterday my partner casually came home and pointed out that one of them was employed as a construction site manager on one of the Gib firms. I couldn’t let this one go. Yes! A real live terrorist wandering and working amongst us!
He’s Turkish, as reported in the news, and has been on the firm for three years as contracts manager.
One of the Spanish lads, who had actually met the Turk, shivered on the spot. And then said ‘He won’t be getting any finiquito, will he?’ Finiquito is the Spanish for severance money. And as some of the staff are being laid off, it’s a topical issue right now.
According to more building site goss, the Turk was already in a Madrid jail at this point. It’s a fair drive from La Linea to Madrid so someone got moving fast.
I thought I would have a little look around and see what other info I could find. Yesterday the two on the bus were originally reported as being arrested in Valdepeñas which is actually north of Almuradiel (which looks like somewhere in the middle of nowhere). I had a look at Al Jazeera and discovered they said that all three had been arrested in the southern province of Cadiz.
Oh dear. Pedantic Roughseas kindly wrote to them and pointed out their error. I notice they have finally updated their piece (and added a few more inaccuracies) but I never received an acknowledgement. Rude gits. Shan’t be trusting them as an accurate source of info.
But how about the Spanish press? I hopped over to El Pais this morning which is one of my preferred Spanish national dailies. It does an English internet version but there isn’t as much info in inglés. The Spanish version has some nice background features.
It also cleared up a few mysteries. There were reports about the three living in San Roque and La Linea. The two are not the same. San Roque town is a few miles away and up on the hill – def not walking distance for a quick chat with your bomb-making pals.
Apparently though, while the Turk lived in La Linea, the other two lived slightly over the municipal border, so were technically in San Roque, and about two kilometres, ie 20 minutes walk away.
The area where the Turk lived, let’s call him T, is one of the most deprived ones in La Linea, and there are a few of those given the huge unemployment in the town. There are about 10,000 people in the area and according to El Pais mostly ‘humble and working class’ (humilde y obrera). In recent years, there has been an influx of strangers into the area. Because of this, T, and his few friends, passed unnoticed in the barrio.
This barrio has social problems (as it would being poor) and often has police intervention, and there are disputes created by drug trafficking – you get the general idea.
According to neighours, T had been living in this rented flat for more than a year and a half, and the other two had been visiting him for around ten months. They mixed very little with anyone and were only occasionally seen having the odd coffee in a local bar. Neighbours added that T was married to a Moroccan woman and worked for a firm in Gibraltar.
At which point I realised that a) the construction site gossip was actually correct info and b) it doesn’t matter where you live in Spain, the neighbours know who you are, even if they don’t know what you are doing on the side. Comes of living under Franco I guess and spying and informing on your neighbours.
A few more facts. One of the three was reported as having trained with the Pakistani terrorist group, Lashkar and Tayiba, known in Urdu as the Army of the Pure. They were responsible for an attack in Mumbai in 2008 where 170 people died. They are independent of Al Qaeda but have links with them. As they would.
The police found a small amount of explosives in the flat in La Linea, and some containers that seemed to have been recently emptied. Hmm, wonder where that went? They also found drawings of radio-controlled lightweight aircraft. Microlights?
Like me, El Pais indulged in a bit of speculation. The official line is that they were suspected of planning an attack in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. Well, that’s pretty vague. How about Gib?
El Pais suggested that they were pretty near to the American naval base at Rota up the coast in Cadiz province and even nearer to the British base in Gibraltar. Just as I said, especially when one of them was working here.
Although the Spanish newspaper names the firm T was working for, I shall be discrete for once. They were hardly to know they were employing a terrorist. It is fair to point out though that one of their clients is the Government of Gibraltar, and that they work on blocks of flats, and on occasion carry out work inside peoples’ flats.
Our government however, considers it not to be an issue. Govt press release:
ARRESTS IN SPAIN
Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar notes the news that a foreign national resident in Spain has been arrested in La Linea de la Concepcion in relation to alleged terrorist offences.
The Government would like to reassure the public that it has received no indication to suggest that the threat level to Gibraltar has changed in any way as a result of these events.
Terrorism is a cruel evil that, unfortunately, affects the whole world. This latest incident so close to Gibraltar reminds us of the need always to remain vigilant and report any concerns or suspicions to the Royal Gibraltar Police.
Hello Gib gov, so you don’t mind that this guy was working in Gib and on govt contracts? Dear me. I would not call working for a Gibraltar construction firm that has government contracts ‘close to Gibraltar’. I would call it right in the midst. Now go away and do your homework. What a crappy press release.
El Pais raises the issue of the small amount of explosives found in the flat, although the Spanish Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández, said that, mixed with shrapnel there was enough to blow up a bus.
According to anti-terrorist forces in Spain, T’s Moroccan wife had said by ‘phone shortly before the arrest, that she had cleaned the flat……..
A quick look at one of the other two, described varyingly as Chechen or ex-Russian. Investigators believe that one of them could have formed part of the special Russian forces, Spetsnaz. I wouldn’t be wanting to meet him in broad daylight let alone at night. When the two were arrested in Almuradiel, one of them used force to resist the Special Operations Group of the Spanish National Police, although he was obviously overcome.
It seems this has been a European-wide collaboration and the men had been under surveillance for some time. Well, obviously if they were tapping ‘phones.
Remember when we are talking Andalucía – and Gibraltar – that they were both Moorish for some hundreds of years. Gib was Moorish longer than it was Spanish. While Islamic fundamentalists may have a lot of aims – and targets, Andalucía never drops off the list.
My interpretation of history – and luckily I have studied this period – says that the Moors left Andalucía a fantastic legacy and Andalucía thrived under Moorish rule. You only have to look at the classic three cities of Córdoba, Granada, and Sevilla to see what they contributed to the Andalucían heritage. And in the countryside the terracing where they cultivated almond, olive, and lemon trees is still in evidence. And of course it’s in the name, Al Andalus, and so many villages in Andalucía have Moorish derived names too.
That’s not to justify Al Qaeda or any terrorism. But they got a raw deal from Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Wars fought in the name of religion. When I did my degree, I was horrified how many wars were carried out for someone’s interpretation of a deity. Nothing changes.
In the meantime, from sunny Gibraltar, full of tourists, cross-border employees (ever more coming across to fiddle on the black I might add), and the odd suspected terrorist, this is the non-blogging Roughseas wishing you a happy weekend.
And hoping you don’t have too many terrorists working in your midst.
Links here should you choose to read more. The two Spanish El Pais ones are the best.
Please note this is another inaccurate article. Groan. I swear journalists aren’t trained these days. Their proof-reading is worse than mine. They have confused San Roque with La Linea. The explosives were found in La Linea. Just to be clear.
El Pais in English
More of a summary, and just as bad as the BBC, as they can’t tell the difference between San Roque and La Linea. Wonder if it was translated by someone English?
On the other hand the Torygraph has written an extremely good post.
And if you haven’t already read this post, you can read about when I got caught up in shooting at the frontier. Just to show that we aren’t such a sleepy little place after all.