The North African branch of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization poses a grave threat to Spain, according to one of Madrid’s top intelligence officials.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain reported that Commissioner-General Enrique Baron, the chief of Spain's National Police counterterrorist intelligence, warned a strategic security conference in the city of Barcelona that Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) may possess chemical weapons, which it likely acquired in Libya during the chaotic end of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime or in other venues of the tumultuous "Arab Spring" revolutions.
Of greater urgency, he said he feared AQIM, which currently occupies northern Mali and seeks to establish harsh Islamic Sharia law there, may again target Catholic Spain with
"The Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has acquired and used very powerful conventional arms and probably also has nonconventional arms, basically chemical, as a result of the loss of control of arsenals," he told the conference.
Spain, which was ruled by Moorish Muslims from 711 AD until 1492, holds a special place in the hearts of Islamic fundamentalists. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel established Spain as a Catholic kingdom, they deported almost all the Jews and Muslims from the country.
More than 500 years later, retribution was taken.
In March 2004, Moroccan terrorists allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda bombed the Madrid train system, killing 191 people and wounding 1,800 others. This atrocity was the worst postwar terrorist attack ever recorded on European soil.
Osama Bin Laden himself frequently referred to Spain as “Al-Andalus” (its old Moorish name) and called for its liberation from Catholics.
Indeed, soon after the Madrid bombings, a group linked to Osama called the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri told an Arabic newspaper in Britain: "This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader and America's ally in its war against Islam."
Indeed, Spain was the crown jewel of the global Islamic caliphate. The mosques and gardens in Seville and Granada testify to beauty and grandeur of Spain's Muslim period.
"They [the Christians] stole 500 years of history from us," Omar Checa Garcia, head of he Jamal Islamiya mosque and cultural center in Granada, told the Toronto Star.
"We want it back, but we don't want revenge."
Moreover, after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Osama’s top lieutenant Ayman al Zawahiri lamented: "We will not accept that the tragedy of Al Andalus [to ]be repeated in Palestine.”
AQIM has also targeted the Algerian government and seeks to replace President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's regime with a strict Islamic state based on Sharia.