Small Wars Journal

Hash and High Explosives: The Great ISIS Bomb Hunt

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 10:40am

Hash and High Explosives: The Great ISIS Bomb Hunt by Christopher Dickey and Itxu Díaz - The Daily Beast

The explosion came minutes before midnight in a squat on the edge of the little Spanish town of Alcanar on the coast south of Barcelona, but even in the dark, and miles away, people could see the mushroom-shaped cloud as flames lit up the sky. This was a massive bomb made of conventional material, but a weapon of mass destruction nonetheless. That it only killed the people making it was a stroke of luck.

But as more is learned about the jihadi cell involved, concerns are growing about the extent of the networks to which they may be linked. The Moroccan bomb maker, a self-styled imam named Abdelbaki Es Satty, 42, had connections to vast hashish smuggling operations in Europe as well as groups with long histories of violent extremism.

Indeed, his group appears to be a classic example of what influential French criminologist Alain Bauer has warned about for years, a “hybrid threat” that is “part common criminal and part political.” And when organized crime meets organized terror, that threat is only more intense.

Es Satty previously was imprisoned for smuggling hash and his contacts range from Morocco to Belgium. He, or other members of his cell, also paid a quick visit to the outskirts of Paris a few days before they planned to carry out attacks in Spain. Es Satty may have been in contact with other groups with more bomb factories and still undetected jihadi cells. According to one report in Spain, he had learned his skills in France.

Such is the level of concern that a rock concert by a band from California in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, was canceled on Wednesday night after authorities received a tip from Spain that it might be a target…

Read on.