Spain probes missing imam, mysterious explosion
A missing imam and a house that exploded days ago became the focus Saturday of the investigation into an extremist cell responsible for two deadly attacks in Barcelona and a nearby resort, as authorities narrowed in on who radicalized a group of young men in northeastern Spain.
Investigators searched the home of Abdelbaki Es Satty, an imam who in June abruptly quit working at a mosque in the town of Ripoll, the home of the Islamic radicals behind the attacks that killed 14 people and wounded more than 120 in the past few days.
Police were trying to determine whether Es Satty was killed in a botched bomb-making operation Wednesday, the eve of the Barcelona bloodshed.
His former mosque has denounced the deadly attacks and weeping relatives marched into a Ripoll square Saturday, tearfully denying any knowledge of the radical plans of their sons and brothers.
At least one of the suspects is still on the run, and his younger brother has disappeared, as has the younger brother of one of the five attackers slain Friday by police.
Catalan police said a manhunt was centered on Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan suspected of driving the van that plowed into a packed Barcelona promenade Thursday, killing 13 people and injuring 120.
Another attack early Friday killed one person and wounded five in the resort of Cambrils.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for both.
Everyone so far known in the cell grew up in Ripoll, a town in the Catalan foothills near the French border, about 62 miles north of Barcelona. Spanish police searched nine homes in Ripoll, including Es Satty’s, and two buses, and set up a roadblock that checked each car entering the town. Across the Pyrenees, French police carried out extra border checks on people coming in from Spain.
Neighbors, family and even the mayor of Ripoll said they were shocked by news of the positive involvement of the young men, whom all described as integrated Spanish and Catalan speakers with friends of all backgrounds.