In front of the town hall, which hoisted the Catalan independence flag and a historic monastery whose bells ring every quarter of an hour, is the song of tears: a group of about fifty Muslims from the town of Ripoll - north of the region - express themselves and express themselves with emotion. "Not in our name," they say with vigor. Understand: we condemn the August 17th killings. Among them, women talk between tears, hug each other sobbing. Saturday, late afternoon, they left the modest mosque of the rue Progrés and, improvised, converged to the center to demonstrate their repulsion against the attack. Ripoll is the key location of the Barcelona tragedy that left 14 dead and around 100 wounded. Of the 12 terrorists - today killed, arrested or on the run - 8 resided in this town of 11,000 inhabitants, mostly in favor of independence, where some 500 Moroccans coexist. Most arrived very young in Catalonia shortly after their birth. Others are born there.

"I can not believe for a second that these young people could have organized such a massacre, Enrage Wafa Marsi, 30, a veiled woman with green eyes. I knew them all since childhood. They were good, happy and responsible. Someone has brainwashed them, there is no other explanation. " Beside her, dressed in a black djellaba, the mother of the Oukabir brothers, Moussa (17 years old, died during the shooting in Cambrils) and Driss, detained, express his impotence and consternation in Arabic. A little apart, a group of Moroccan men have a look overwhelmed. "He's a bastard, he's a bastard," they repeat in chorus. For them, no doubt, the person responsible for this jihadist attack is none other than Ripoll's imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, 45, a radical Salafist. "He was very closed, serious, I never liked him, confides Munir Laghmiri, worker in a plastic factory. He has hidden his game well. I can assure you that it is not in the mosque that he has fanatised them, but elsewhere. "


How is it possible that, in such an entrenched village in northern Catalonia, young Moroccans, described as "Kind and well integrated", could suddenly become jihadists willing to slaughter hundreds of people in Barcelona or Cambrils? "It is all the more incomprehensible that most of them, especially the brothers Hachemi and Aalaa, had a stable job, knew practically nothing about Islam and frequented Spaniards, comments Hannan, a very emotional Moroccan who took the initiative of the demonstration in front of the town hall. I would have put my hand on fire for them. " Yet, as conversations lengthen and tongues become loose, the story diverges. Aina, 17, an intimate friend of Houssaine Abouyaaqoub and Moussa Oukabir - killed in Cambrils - says that for three months something had changed in this group of friends: longer clothes, a more serious attitude, a certain coldness and "Frequent trips to Barcelona or Vic".

At the origin of this "mutation": Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty. Arrived in Ripoll in 2015, this Moroccan first took charge of what the Muslims in the city call the "little mosque". A year later, in April, he opened a second cult center, the "Grand Mosque", which houses only fifty faithful. "I stopped praying, says Hassan, 39 years old. His speech was moderate, but he was weird, he seemed to be constantly plotting, he was dividing the community. " In June, Es Satty announces that he renounces his function. Reason invoked: he must leave three months in Morocco to visit relatives. In general, it is confirmed, an imam does not take more than three consecutive weeks of leave. Then the testimonies diverge. Some say he has never walked Ripoll, others that he came back occasionally and stealthily.

Hashish traffic

The fate of the imam is today at the heart of the police investigation. Nadir - a discreet forty-year-old speaking only Arabic - who for two years had shared a small apartment on the sixth floor of a building near the town hall, claims that Tuesday, two days before the attack on the Ramblas Barcelona, ​​he took leave of him. By telling him he was going to Morocco. The Catalan police rather think that Es Satty went to Alcanar, participated in the manufacture of explosives (butane, propane and TAPT, called "the mother of Satan", used by the Islamic State) and would have died on the spot on Wednesday, following a bad handling. This Saturday around noon, the Mossos d'Esquadra engaged for three hours in a search in the apartment of the Imam, including to get their hands on clues to perform DNA tests, and confirm the identity of the corpse of Alcanar.

The investigators are convinced that, since his installation in 2015 in Ripoll, the imam has prepared the attacks he wanted him to kill hundreds of people in Catalonia. "He did things in an orderly way, entrusts a father of Moroccan family. I think he took some time to pick out who was going to commit the crimes. He especially chose young people, brothers, from poor parents, often illiterate and who had no control over their sons." In fact, from May and June, when those who became terrorists started to change their attitude, they have a lot of freedom. According to several witnesses, they often circulate in Vic, Barcelona or elsewhere, handle more money, take insurance. At this stage, they have been fanatised by social networks and by the imam - and perhaps also by accomplices - and are ready to perpetrate attacks against "infidels". Remains today for the Catalan police to investigate further Abdelbaki Es Satty. According to some sources, the one who served four years in prison between 2010 and 2015 for hashish traffic, is not a new Islamist. According to the website OK Diario, in the mid-2000s, the imam included an Islamist cell in Vilanova i la Geltrù - on the Catalan coast - which was dedicated to recruiting future jihadists from uprooted Muslim youth. That he would have sent suicide to Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.

François Musseau Special Envoy to Ripoll