Spain’s security forces begin discreet deployment in Mediterranean resorts

Local police officers and Civil Guards in the Catalan resort town of Roses

Local police officers and Civil Guards in the Catalan resort town of Roses

Heavily armed officers are now patrolling seafronts in Catalonia as well as access points to resort areas

With the country on a level four terrorism alert in the wake of attacks in France and Germany, Spain is stepping up security throughout its Mediterranean coastline, with armed patrols and drones being rolled out to protect the millions of holidaymakers that will flock to its beaches over the next month.

The attacks in France, as well as the situation in Turkey, along with the attacks last year in Tunisia, have prompted many vacationers to change their summer travel plans in favor of Spain, and particularly Catalonia.

Catalonia’s regional government is aware of the danger and the impact any kind of attack would have on Spain’s tourism industry. In response, they have assigned large numbers of regional Mossos d’Esquadra police officers armed with submachine guns and assault rifles to resorts such as Roses and Lloret de Mar, where they are patrolling sea fronts and controlling access to beach areas.

Jordi Jané, Catalonia’s interior minister, said that his own security services had warned of an attack in France.

In June, the US State Department issued a travel alert warning its citizens about “the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation.”

“The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events,” said the note.

Following the attack in Nice on July 14, Catalonia’s regional premier, Carles Puigdemont, met with anti-terrorism officers. Jordi Jané, the region’s interior chief, said that his own security services had warned of an attack in France. At that point, armed units were deployed to resort areas as well as train and bus stations, airports and government buildings.

Drones for Benidorm

Further down the coast in Alicante province, Benidorm, one of Spain’s most popular resorts, is being patrolled by a drone.

“We were pioneers, but other towns are now using drones,” says Carlos López of the Benidorm local police, and one of four officers responsible for the surveillance craft.

The drones are mostly used for detecting swimmers in trouble, vessels which have gone adrift and smoke that could be a sign of a forest fire, a common occurrence in the summer months. But they are also useful in the detection of many other kinds of risk situations, said the officers.

Over 18 million tourists visited Spain in the first four months of 2016 alone, representing a 13% rise from the same period last year.

The country broke a record for international tourist arrivals last year with over 68 million visitors, of whom 1.5 million came from the United States, according to official figures.

Published ElPais 4 August 2016

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