- - Thursday, August 17, 2017

Although Spain had largely avoided the large-scale terror attacks that have hit other Western European nations in recent years, a high-level Spanish police official said authorities have been anticipating a major strike for some time now.

“We have dismantled dozens of plots and conducted about 300 arrests and detentions of terror suspects over the last two years, but some were bound to get through,” the official said.

Early indications suggest that the individual or individuals behind Thursday’s horrific van attack on a crowd in a popular Barcelona plaza were of North African origin, and may have acquired arms and logistical support from sleeper cells in Spain or another EU country, the official said, although the investigation was in the very earliest stages.

A Moroccan national who had been through Belgium was picked up near the luxury resort of Marbella two months ago armed with an AK-47, officials said, in an incident that was believed to have links to the Islamic State terror group.

Spanish authorities have been pressing the European Union to increase cooperation with North African nations trying to pre-empt terrorist cells there from trying to infiltrate operatives into Spain and other nations along Europe’s southern border.

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