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The indiviidual is taken into custody. POLICÍA NACIONAL / GUARDIA CIVIL

Spanish police arrest alleged jihadist, suspected of planning gun attack on Benidorm's tourist beaches

The 28-year-old man, of Moroccan origin and Spanish nationality, was arrested in Girona by National Police and Guardia Civil officers after a tip-off from the FBI in the United States

MELCHOR SAIZ-PARDO / JUAN CANO

Friday, 27 January 2023, 21:54

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Members of the Spain’s National Police and the Guardia Civil detained an alleged jihadist on Wednesday in the Santa Eugènia neighbourhood of Girona who, it is believed, intended to carry out a gun attack on Benidorm’s tourist beaches.

The head of the Investigating Court number 2 of the National Court, Ismael Moreno, ordered this Friday the imprisonment prison - without bail - of Fath Allah Benhachem Gharrass, 28, of Moroccan origin and Spanish nationality, although no weapons were seized from him at the time of his arrest.

The detention of Benhachem, which only became known this Friday afternoon, took place after an alert from the FBI in the United States, who warned the Spanish security forces of his degree of radicalism and proselytism in favour of Daesh on social media networks, the internet and also on the Deep Web, the network used by criminals which is beyond the reach of the majority of internet users.

The intention of the arrested man, who was captured just two hours before the attack in Algeciras, was to record the gunning down of the bathers and post it on the Islamic State networks.

It is believed the alleged jihadist had already carried out target practice. At his home in Girona, a cardboard silhouette of the type used in shooting galleries, was found with seven bullet holes. In addition, six pods of two different ammunition calibres were found: 9 millimetres and 38 Special.

Looking to acquire AK-47 rifles

The FBI's monitoring of the different aliases he used online, such as ‘Daniel Lofti’ and ‘Pipa4545’, was what revealed his plans to attack the well-known Alicante tourist town on behalf of Daesh. His online conversations and also the subsequent wiretaps revealed that he had already begun negotiations with another radical, alias 'Karim el Maghrebi' and who is probably outside of Spain, to acquire AK-47 rifles, Glock brand 9mm pistols and explosive belts. His efforts on the black market, explained sources of the fight against terrorism, were advanced, although as yet he had not obtained any firearms.

Westernisation

The other fixation of the alleged terrorist was to attack Moroccan citizens in Spain, who he criticised for their westernisation, although the specific plans have not yet been disclosed. He also moved in the networks in which supporters of the Islamic State spoke about trying to kill a Jew residing in Spain or against Moroccan or Spanish authorities.

As reported by authorities this Friday, the arrested man was also very fond of watching the execution of jihadist attacks in Europe. The same day he was arrested, he searched for how to carry out stabbings and attacks with bladed weapons, revealed by the Ministry of the Interior. He apparently watched the video of an actual stabbing of a person on a train up to 18 times to supposedly learn the technique. This 'lone wolf' was also familiar with videos of stabbings in US prisons or jihadist stabbing attacks in London and Tunis.

Poisons and car bombs

The arrested man also used his extensive knowledge of the internet to obtain manuals to train himself in the use of weapons and explosives, although no substances that could be used to make bombs were found in the police search of his home on Wednesday. His most frequent inquiries were about how to manufacture TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide), better known as the 'Mother of Satan', the explosive that the terror cell of the attacks on Las Ramblas and Cambrils in August 2017 tried to manufacture and that blew up the house of Alcanar, where two of the terrorists died. Benhachem Gharrass was already trying to buy large quantities of acetone, the main component of TATP, from a Chinese supplier, the authorities claimed

He had also carried out research to make C4, a powerful plastic explosive for military use, how to make car bombs or how to make various types of poisons.

Spain's Ministry of the Interior today praised the tip-off from the FBI, as it played an "essential role in the identification and neutralisation of this alleged terrorist."

The anti-terrorist services insisted this Friday that the detainee "was in an advanced process of jihadist radicalisation and had a profile of violence and aggressiveness."

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