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The uncomfortable truth about Spain’s latest terror attack

Pallbearers carry the casket of Diego Valencia two days after he was killed. Credit: Getty.

February 1, 2023 - 1:30pm

Last week, on Spain’s southernmost outpost of Algeciras, 25-year-old Moroccan national Yassine Kanjaa left his apartment to head into town. He had been illegally squatting there for three years, but it was clear that he would not be returning any time soon. 

After vandalising artefacts and verbally abusing parishioners at a nearby church, Kanjaa, armed with a machete, stabbed and seriously injured a priest. Later, at another church in the area, he chased down a sexton and slit the man’s throat in a nearby square whilst crying “Allahu Akbar”, all videotaped by shocked onlookers. The church worker, Diego Valencia, died on the spot. 

If last week wasn’t a harbinger of a change in public opinion against illegal immigration from the MENA region, it’s hard to fathom what will be. Granted, Spain has known far deadlier attacks: 193 people died when Al-Qaeda bombed Madrid’s Atocha train station in March 2004, while 13 were killed in the more recent series of car-ramming attacks in Barcelona in 2017. Yet this latest incident is better placed than its precedents to trigger a long-overdue national debate on illegal immigration: how much of it is tolerable, and what means can be employed to limit it.

While the 2004 and 2017 culprits were all legally residing in Spain, Kanjaa was not an asylum seeker, with a deportation order pending since last June. Having been radicalised during his time in Spain (he’d begun consuming ISIS propaganda a few weeks before), the police’s failure to prevent Kanjaa from carrying out his violent spree is a worrying sign that Spanish intelligence is not up to the task of protecting innocents from would-be terrorists. 

Kanjaa’s case raises alarm bells not just because of the speed of his turn from an unassuming young immigrant into a potential terrorist, but also because he had undertaken that process entirely on his own and unnoticed by police. Indeed, Kanjaa’s flatmates recall him as constantly alone — first smoking pot and drinking heavily, then transitioning to regularly listening to the Quran on his headphones. 

Yet the fact that his sharing of ISIS-linked content on Facebook — for a month leading up to the attack —  circumvented the police’s radar raises questions about the speed and efficacy of Spanish intelligence. These are questions the public deserve to have answered if such attacks are to be prevented in the future.

What is now needed is an open discussion between all major parties on how to deal with the problem. And yet, a full week after the killing, no such debate is happening beyond the confines of Vox, Spain’s Right-wing, immigration-sceptic party. Even the Right-of-centre Partido Popular, with whom Vox is rumoured to be mulling a coalition come the next race in December, has taken to downplaying association between the attack and Islam, or with immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

One would think the Left, meanwhile, might have softened its views since rising to power in June 2018 as part of a coalition between Podemos and assorted socialist parties. Yet the Spanish Left has turned more, not less, pro-migration since, denouncing Vox’s pronouncements on this matter as “xenophobic”.

Politicians of the Right and Left turn a blind eye to this problem at their own peril. This cannot remain an issue exclusive to the Right-wing fringes: it must become a national one. Otherwise, it risks denying the rest of Spaniards a debate on how to change policies in order to prevent future attacks from happening. And that is the real danger.


Jorge González-Gallarza is the executive director of the Madrid-based think-tank Fundación Civismo and co-host of the Uncommon Decency podcast (@UnDecencyPod)

JorgeGGallarza

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N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago

The Left can not and will not say anything against foreigners. So much of the left despise their own country, regardless of which country it is. Many suffer from xenophilia. 
Try bringing terrorist attacks up with friends you know on the left. The response is usually an uncomfortable silence. It is a silence well practiced. If blame is dished out, it will always be to the local population for being the cause of the terrorist attack (victim blaming) by their racism towards foreigners. Or the fault of the Government for waging wars abroad. But never will the attacker be held responsible for their own actions. Never.
The arguments are well rehearsed. A politician on a TV show says “It’s time we had an honest and frank debate about immigration” next we hear the inarticulate, fearful views of an audience member who doesn’t like mass immigration. The person is denounced as a racist, and the honest and frank debate is over until the next time.
The problem is insolvable. The left can not see beyond their own prejudice. There will be no honest and frank debate. The next attack will occur, we say nothing, do little and pretend it isn’t happening.
Insanity.

Last edited 1 year ago by N Forster
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

Just the same lack of engagement as in dealing with misogyny and violence against women.
No one on any political plane seems to be in favour of common humanity .

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

Or commonsense. Everything these days is all in..lrt’s make another big, fat useless law…or nothing.
Ignore, pretend, hope it might all just go away.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

Or commonsense. Everything these days is all in..lrt’s make another big, fat useless law…or nothing.
Ignore, pretend, hope it might all just go away.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago
Reply to  N Forster

Just the same lack of engagement as in dealing with misogyny and violence against women.
No one on any political plane seems to be in favour of common humanity .

N Forster
N Forster
1 year ago

The Left can not and will not say anything against foreigners. So much of the left despise their own country, regardless of which country it is. Many suffer from xenophilia. 
Try bringing terrorist attacks up with friends you know on the left. The response is usually an uncomfortable silence. It is a silence well practiced. If blame is dished out, it will always be to the local population for being the cause of the terrorist attack (victim blaming) by their racism towards foreigners. Or the fault of the Government for waging wars abroad. But never will the attacker be held responsible for their own actions. Never.
The arguments are well rehearsed. A politician on a TV show says “It’s time we had an honest and frank debate about immigration” next we hear the inarticulate, fearful views of an audience member who doesn’t like mass immigration. The person is denounced as a racist, and the honest and frank debate is over until the next time.
The problem is insolvable. The left can not see beyond their own prejudice. There will be no honest and frank debate. The next attack will occur, we say nothing, do little and pretend it isn’t happening.
Insanity.

Last edited 1 year ago by N Forster
Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago

Censorship of the words Islam, Islamism Muslim in established terror/murder cases involving the aforementioned is not just practised in Spain. The BBC will not report the fact in the news and so too the police. Both have bent their meek knees to the rantings of Muslim protest groups who deem it racist insensitive and wrong to make this assocation …even when MPs are knifed to death to the all too familiar chant. You just wait for the name and photo. We might learn more about this collapse of free speech and journalistic capitulation if the State let us read the report into the dogs breakfast that is Prevent and the Big Lie – again promoted by the Newspeak BBC and State Militia – that armies of mad Nazis pose a far greater threat to our security. Abject craven surrender. But the report is of course still under wraps in the wibbly wobbly Home Office.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

The useful idiots at the BBC are too busy cooking up the narrative of Hindu terrorism led by RSS and the Modi government. Poor islamists, they just cannot carryout peaceful killings without being challenged and opposed!

Last edited 1 year ago by Vijay Kant
John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I think the aim is to make any criticism of Islam illegal.

james goater
JG
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  John Le Huquet

The propaganda term “Islamophobia” is designed to do just that — shut down any meaningful debate on Islamic terrorism and Islam, in general.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  james goater

Transphobia similarly!

Diane Tasker
DT
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  james goater

Transphobia similarly!

james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  John Le Huquet

The propaganda term “Islamophobia” is designed to do just that — shut down any meaningful debate on Islamic terrorism and Islam, in general.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

The useful idiots at the BBC are too busy cooking up the narrative of Hindu terrorism led by RSS and the Modi government. Poor islamists, they just cannot carryout peaceful killings without being challenged and opposed!

Last edited 1 year ago by Vijay Kant
John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I think the aim is to make any criticism of Islam illegal.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago

Censorship of the words Islam, Islamism Muslim in established terror/murder cases involving the aforementioned is not just practised in Spain. The BBC will not report the fact in the news and so too the police. Both have bent their meek knees to the rantings of Muslim protest groups who deem it racist insensitive and wrong to make this assocation …even when MPs are knifed to death to the all too familiar chant. You just wait for the name and photo. We might learn more about this collapse of free speech and journalistic capitulation if the State let us read the report into the dogs breakfast that is Prevent and the Big Lie – again promoted by the Newspeak BBC and State Militia – that armies of mad Nazis pose a far greater threat to our security. Abject craven surrender. But the report is of course still under wraps in the wibbly wobbly Home Office.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago

‘Indeed, Kanjaa’s flatmates recall him as constantly alone — first smoking pot…’

And there’s the line that Peter Hitchens is constantly telling us to look for in these cases.

Angelique Todesco
Angelique Todesco
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Yup and he is not wrong, I now find myself actively looking for that phrase in senseless and violent crimes and generally it pops up there somewhere.

Angelique Todesco
AT
Angelique Todesco
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Yup and he is not wrong, I now find myself actively looking for that phrase in senseless and violent crimes and generally it pops up there somewhere.

Derek Smith
DS
Derek Smith
1 year ago

‘Indeed, Kanjaa’s flatmates recall him as constantly alone — first smoking pot…’

And there’s the line that Peter Hitchens is constantly telling us to look for in these cases.

Iris Violet
Iris Violet
1 year ago

Read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Prey’ which covers the issue. ‘Wir schaffen daß nicht’.

Iris Violet
Iris Violet
1 year ago

Read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Prey’ which covers the issue. ‘Wir schaffen daß nicht’.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

I find it strange that in 2022/3, when we know our governments are all over our social media content (see the story the other day on here about big brother watch) that the police couldn’t spot someone sharing ISIS material.
Immigration itself isn’t really the issue though reading this story, the terrorist in this case was only radicalised after he’d immigrated- food for thought!

Adam K
Adam K
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonny Stud

He may have been ”radicalised” after immigrating, but no doubt, he brought his identity and affinities with him to Spain.
We see it all over Europe. Recent attacks in France were committed by people who had been given deportation orders.
I would be interested to hear an argument in support of why any of these people had to be in the countries they were admitted to.
Needless deaths are caused by the proponents of multiculturalism who seem to avoid being held to account, no matter how blood drenched their hands are.
Where would we be without mass immigration? I wonder.
The Heritage Site | Adam McDermont | Substack

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam K

Your example there sort of reinforces the point, doesn’t it? The attackers in France had also been served deportation notices, presumably they hadn’t planned the attacks before being told to sod off or they’d have carried them out earlier? Why wait?
Maybe there’s something the authorities can do at the point that decision is made to limit the deportees ability to turn to jihad, or at least monitor them better to find who is aiding and facilitating the conversions. Even if they don’t turn to ISIS teachings serving a notice of deportation in advance seems pretty idiotic as who’s going to go along with it willingly? Serve it on the day of deportation maybe and they can’t hang around illegally afterwards.
You seem to have read me wrong – I am against mass immigration personally for a variety of reasons, but I thought it was quite a key thing that he didn’t go all ISIS until after he’d been served and it was worth thinking about.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam K

Your example there sort of reinforces the point, doesn’t it? The attackers in France had also been served deportation notices, presumably they hadn’t planned the attacks before being told to sod off or they’d have carried them out earlier? Why wait?
Maybe there’s something the authorities can do at the point that decision is made to limit the deportees ability to turn to jihad, or at least monitor them better to find who is aiding and facilitating the conversions. Even if they don’t turn to ISIS teachings serving a notice of deportation in advance seems pretty idiotic as who’s going to go along with it willingly? Serve it on the day of deportation maybe and they can’t hang around illegally afterwards.
You seem to have read me wrong – I am against mass immigration personally for a variety of reasons, but I thought it was quite a key thing that he didn’t go all ISIS until after he’d been served and it was worth thinking about.

Adam K
Adam K
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonny Stud

He may have been ”radicalised” after immigrating, but no doubt, he brought his identity and affinities with him to Spain.
We see it all over Europe. Recent attacks in France were committed by people who had been given deportation orders.
I would be interested to hear an argument in support of why any of these people had to be in the countries they were admitted to.
Needless deaths are caused by the proponents of multiculturalism who seem to avoid being held to account, no matter how blood drenched their hands are.
Where would we be without mass immigration? I wonder.
The Heritage Site | Adam McDermont | Substack

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

I find it strange that in 2022/3, when we know our governments are all over our social media content (see the story the other day on here about big brother watch) that the police couldn’t spot someone sharing ISIS material.
Immigration itself isn’t really the issue though reading this story, the terrorist in this case was only radicalised after he’d immigrated- food for thought!

Fanny Blancmange
FB
Fanny Blancmange
1 year ago

First I’ve heard of this appalling incident, a fact which doesn’t surprise me. The master/captor echelon’s minions want to keep the livestock placid and ignorant. Perhaps if this savage’s victims had protected characteristics there would be a heavily-reported Europe-wide March Against Fascism.

Fanny Blancmange
Fanny Blancmange
1 year ago

First I’ve heard of this appalling incident, a fact which doesn’t surprise me. The master/captor echelon’s minions want to keep the livestock placid and ignorant. Perhaps if this savage’s victims had protected characteristics there would be a heavily-reported Europe-wide March Against Fascism.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

This can’t have anything to do with Islam or dope smoking so it must be the booze, white supremacy, and institutional racism

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

This can’t have anything to do with Islam or dope smoking so it must be the booze, white supremacy, and institutional racism

Christopher McDowell
Christopher McDowell
1 year ago

Hi Jorge. I’m confused about this sentence. Can you confirm whether or not Kanjaa had made an application for asylum? “While the 2004 and 2017 culprits were all legally residing in Spain, Kanjaa was not an asylum seeker, with a deportation order pending since last June.” 

Christopher McDowell
Christopher McDowell
1 year ago

Hi Jorge. I’m confused about this sentence. Can you confirm whether or not Kanjaa had made an application for asylum? “While the 2004 and 2017 culprits were all legally residing in Spain, Kanjaa was not an asylum seeker, with a deportation order pending since last June.” 

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

travellin in Northern Italy and Southern France, just as in England, the ‘ vox pop’ at bars and cafes reveal a boiling, rather than simmering contempt and anger at both media and politicians craven cowardice and fear of saying, let alone doing anything about certain immigrant, most definitely NOT all. It is inconceivable that, suppression of the majority of especially ordinary peoples feelings, is not going to result in some form of civil explosion?

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
1 year ago

That is precisely the goal. When a civil explosion takes place, martial law will then be justified. Covid lockdown was a good practice run.

John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
1 year ago

We had the grooming scandle in the UK. Young white girls were groomed and sexually abused by men of Pakistani origin. The main stream media found it difficult to report on it. Probably for the sake of social cohesion, they would say. Craven and cowardly.

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
1 year ago

That is precisely the goal. When a civil explosion takes place, martial law will then be justified. Covid lockdown was a good practice run.

John Le Huquet
John Le Huquet
1 year ago

We had the grooming scandle in the UK. Young white girls were groomed and sexually abused by men of Pakistani origin. The main stream media found it difficult to report on it. Probably for the sake of social cohesion, they would say. Craven and cowardly.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

travellin in Northern Italy and Southern France, just as in England, the ‘ vox pop’ at bars and cafes reveal a boiling, rather than simmering contempt and anger at both media and politicians craven cowardice and fear of saying, let alone doing anything about certain immigrant, most definitely NOT all. It is inconceivable that, suppression of the majority of especially ordinary peoples feelings, is not going to result in some form of civil explosion?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Yes? So whats new? Instead of moaning about it, we should all do something?!!!!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Yes? So whats new? Instead of moaning about it, we should all do something?!!!!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Spain is an interesting case, since in the early Middle Ages it was conquered by Islam from across the Mediterranean and much of its cultural heritage derives from the eventual peaceful co-existence of Islam and Christianity.
It’s now just another case of religion being brought to bear in an issue which is purely about the alienation of a young man brought up in a different culture being rejected by the society he thought would accept him. One could make the same case for radical Islam in its entirety, but on a global scale.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It was peaceful coexistence so long as you paid the jizya. This is nothing to do with alienation and everything to do with a faith snuffed out the last attempts at reform 800 years ago.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Nothing to do with alienation? Rubbish. The guy wasn’t radicalised until he found he wasn’t being accepted in that society.

Apart from which, it seems you and others have chosen to.misinterpret my post as if i’m an Islamist! Don’t you all read and take note of plenty of other posts i’ve made which clearly demonstrate the opposite, or do we have to explain ourselves over and over again from scratch for the benefit of those unable to take such notice?

Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

So, when he found out “he wasn’t being accepted”, he killed a church warden with a machete, in a similar action to hundreds of other attacks made by murderous islamists in Europe of the past few years. Does that not say something about the suitability (or not) of the adherents of certain religions to be admitted into the West without proper and rigorous screening? We don’t have a similar problem among Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist immigrants. But just carry on putting it down to not showing enough compassion towards would-be asylum seekers from certain counties, and not others.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Jews have been marginalized in Europe for two millennia and you don’t see them slitting throats or burning cars.
Notice any differences?
It’s culture and religion.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Surely each of your comments is to be treated separately and any response that anyone might have on them should not be subject to a requirement that they must first familiarise themselves with the views and opinions you have expressed in all the previous comments you have posted on this site. Or are you suggesting we should only question or comment on the published article and not on other people’s comments on it?? If so that sounds rather restrictive to me.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Your explanation for this evil act is truly pathetic and morally cretinous. And I rather doubt you would be quite so interested in a perpetrator’s ‘alienation’ were he a white guy on the far Right.

You cannot demand people accept or like you, especially if you are a drug-addled loser who has no right to be in the country. The correct response isn’t actually to slit a few old white people’s throats – well they were just so unfriendly – but to sort out your own life.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

So, when he found out “he wasn’t being accepted”, he killed a church warden with a machete, in a similar action to hundreds of other attacks made by murderous islamists in Europe of the past few years. Does that not say something about the suitability (or not) of the adherents of certain religions to be admitted into the West without proper and rigorous screening? We don’t have a similar problem among Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist immigrants. But just carry on putting it down to not showing enough compassion towards would-be asylum seekers from certain counties, and not others.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Jews have been marginalized in Europe for two millennia and you don’t see them slitting throats or burning cars.
Notice any differences?
It’s culture and religion.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Surely each of your comments is to be treated separately and any response that anyone might have on them should not be subject to a requirement that they must first familiarise themselves with the views and opinions you have expressed in all the previous comments you have posted on this site. Or are you suggesting we should only question or comment on the published article and not on other people’s comments on it?? If so that sounds rather restrictive to me.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Your explanation for this evil act is truly pathetic and morally cretinous. And I rather doubt you would be quite so interested in a perpetrator’s ‘alienation’ were he a white guy on the far Right.

You cannot demand people accept or like you, especially if you are a drug-addled loser who has no right to be in the country. The correct response isn’t actually to slit a few old white people’s throats – well they were just so unfriendly – but to sort out your own life.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Nothing to do with alienation? Rubbish. The guy wasn’t radicalised until he found he wasn’t being accepted in that society.

Apart from which, it seems you and others have chosen to.misinterpret my post as if i’m an Islamist! Don’t you all read and take note of plenty of other posts i’ve made which clearly demonstrate the opposite, or do we have to explain ourselves over and over again from scratch for the benefit of those unable to take such notice?

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It was peaceful coexistence so long as you paid the jizya. This is nothing to do with alienation and everything to do with a faith snuffed out the last attempts at reform 800 years ago.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Spain is an interesting case, since in the early Middle Ages it was conquered by Islam from across the Mediterranean and much of its cultural heritage derives from the eventual peaceful co-existence of Islam and Christianity.
It’s now just another case of religion being brought to bear in an issue which is purely about the alienation of a young man brought up in a different culture being rejected by the society he thought would accept him. One could make the same case for radical Islam in its entirety, but on a global scale.