Note: This report was first published on 16 July 2019. Three further related reports were published on 17 July, 18 July and 19 July. You can also click here for all our reports on the Barcelona Terrorist Attacks.
The mastermind of the terror attacks in La Rambla in Barcelona was an informer for the Spanish Intelligence Service (CNI) until the day of the incidents, according to a report by the Público Spanish digital newspaper, which on Tuesday released emails between the ringleader and the secret services.
Secret services were in touch with Abdelbaki Es Satty via email until the 17 August 2017 incidents, and that they knew about the cell’s movements, according to Público.
According to the reports, both sides were using the email account ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ to communicate, writing each other emails and leaving them as drafts, thus avoiding the messages being traced.
According to Público, the password for this email account was found among the debris of the house that blew up in Alcanar, in southern Catalonia. Es Satty died in the explosion, the night before the attacks took place.
Spanish intelligence also knew about the movements of other cell members, at least from December 2016 onwards, eight months before the attacks.
The terror incidents in Barcelona and Cambrils, on 17-18 August 2017, left 16 people dead.
Three months after the attacks, the CNI admitted to being in touch with Es Satty while he was in jail between 2010 and 2014, but has never acknowledged messaging him shortly before the attacks or tracking the other cell members’ movements.
Investigators of the events found two draft emails, one of which was saved on 24 May 2017, presumably written by a secret service officer. ‘I see you have been able to get in. The only thing you need to do is leave a draft message here and I will read it. You can already write things. Thanks, my friend,’ reads the unsent email.
On 19 June 2017, the same person writes through the same system: ‘You do not have anything to write to me or you cannot do it. Today is Monday 19 June.’
The report by Público also talks about papers sent by the CNI to the officials in charge of the investigators of the attacks, making it clear that some members of the terror cell had been tracked.
For instance, the secret services knew the movements of some of them in four countries, were able to listen to the phone conversations between them, and knew about their trips from Ripoll – where the cell was thought to have its base – and Alcanar – where they made explosives in the house that exploded shortly before the attacks, says Público.
The same newspaper says that the secret services had tracked an Audi A3 car whose registration was 9676BHF, and which was owned by one of the terrorists but also used by some of the others.
Público believes that Spanish intelligence was tracking the cell until the very same day of the attacks – and to back up this information the article also states that the CNI deleted its file on Es Satty the morning after the attacks.