National Police at Palma's Son Sant Joan airport. | Miquel A. Cañellas


Spain remains on a level four alert for terrorist attack risk, below the maximum of five. With attacks taking place elsewhere, security forces in the country are stepping up their vigilance, with tourist areas and religious sites being particularly sensitive.

25 July, the day of Santiago and a worldwide expression of Christianity, had given the forces some concern, but that has passed. Nevertheless, they are taking account of a threat issued last October and a further one this May to kill the Spanish infidel.

Security force sources say that there is no information regarding any imminent attack in Spain. European intelligence identifies France, Germany, Belgium and the UK as the countries most at risk. General Felix Sanz Roldan, the director of the National Intelligence Centre, said at the start of this month that there are risks to security but that there wasn't a Daesh unit ready to target Spain.

It is being acknowledged, though, that the threat of attacks is increasingly less from organised cells or units. Jose Maria Gil Garre describes this a "fluid" danger, as real as it is undefined. Jesus Pedrazo Majarres of the National Police calls it a threat that is "totally decomposed", coming as it might from the absence of any complex structure but able to inflict great harm, as with the truck in Nice.

While Islamic State may offer inspiration, there are attacks from those with mental or psychological problems. Religion isn't necessarily a dominant component, given that some attackers are known to have been drinkers or not to have subscribed to sharia or to fasting for Ramadan. A swift radicalisation process can, however, push them into action. Identifying such individuals is thus made more difficult.

According to Europol, there were more arrests of jihadists in Spain than any other country in 2015 apart from France. There were 187 in Spain, with 424 in France, 134 in the UK and 40 in Germany. Since 2013, classification of detainees calculates that 5.6% of them would be suspected terrorists acting alone. An expert in terrorism, Mario Toboso, says that IS appeals to this solitary terrorist, who carries out an attack without taking any direct orders or having a support network. He points also to the fact that the use of the truck in Nice had been highlighted by Al Qaeda back in 2010.

In Spain's efforts against terrorism, the security forces are currently monitoring at least 200 telephones, though a much higher figure - 600 - has been quoted by certain police sources. Thirteen individuals who have returned from Syria are under watch, seventeen more have either been detained or are "controlled", and 1,200 mosques are being monitored, especially in the "hotspots" of Catalonia, Madrid, Ceuta and Melilla.

In addition to airports, there is now additional security for trains, a recognition in part of events of March 2004 in Madrid, after which specific plans were developed for areas where there was potential for jihadist radicalisation. There is also increased tracking of the sale of weapons on the black market, while amendments to the criminal code have given security forces new tools with which to fight attempts at indoctrination. Revision is also pending of the government's comprehensive strategy against international terrorism and radicalisation.