Islamic Imam Thought to be Key Figure in Spanish Terror Cell

Catalan autonomous police officers, known as Mosso d'Esquadra, detain a cuffed suspect in Ripoll during a search linked to the deadly terror attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils on August 18, 2017, a day after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 14 persons and injuring over …
PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images

BARCELONA — A police official in Spain says an imam whose home was searched as part of the investigation into two deadly vehicle attacks is believed to be the radicalizing force behind the cell of young men — and is now thought to have died in an explosion linked to the attacks.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the new suspicions surrounding imam Abdelbaki Es Satty. Officials in Es Satty’s former mosque in the northern town of Ripoll, which he left abruptly in June, on Saturday denounced the attacks in Barcelona and a nearby seaside town.

The mosque president, Ali Yassine, said Es Satty told him he wanted to return to Morocco for three months and hasn’t seen him since. The police official says Es Satty is believed to have died in an explosion Wednesday that destroyed a house south of Barcelona.

The two vehicle attacks in Spain left 14 dead and over 120 wounded. Possible suspects whose names have emerged so far in the investigation are all from Ripoll.

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