A quarter of those arrested in Spain for having jihadist ties in recent years were in Catalonia.
The choice of Barcelona as a target for terrorists came as little surprise to security experts in Spain and elsewhere in Europe because of Catalonia’s links to jihadists and Salafism, a radical form of Islam.
Catalonia has been the main hub of jihadist recruitment in Spain for more than a decade and radical Islamists consider it to be occupied land that should be part of a future Islamic caliphate. The region is home to approximately 510,000 Muslims, more than a quarter of the total number in Spain, according to a demographic study by the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain.
“The Catalan province, especially the area surrounding Tarragona [a port city in northeastern Catalonia], have been a Salafi hotbed for years, and one of the reasons is that it houses the highest numbers of Salafist mosques in Europe,” said Lorenzo Vidino, director of a program on extremism at George Washington University and author of a study on Salafism in Catalonia.