Three Arrested Over Populist Politician Assassination Attempt

Spanish police have arrested three people over the shooting in the face of a veteran Spanish politician as he walked home from Church earlier this month, but say they haven’t yet found the gunman and further arrests may come.

Three people have been arrested over the shooting of 78-year-old Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a retired parliamentarian and co-founder of Spain’s populist Vox party, the first detentions over the attempted slaying earlier this month. A British citizen woman and a man were arrested in Granada, and a man with Spanish citizenship was taken by officers in Malaga, all in southern Spain, in police operations in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Spanish newspaper El Confidencial cites police sources which state all three had been under surveillance for several days. Broadcaster ABC states, however, that none of the three arrested so far are thought to have been the gunman himself.

The attack took place on November 9th and saw a gunman wearing a motorcycle helmet approach Vidal-Quadras on the street as he walked away from Mass at his local church in an upscale Madrid neighbourhood, and shoot him point-blank in the face. No words were exchanged between the men and no warning of the sudden attack was given. The gunman then ran to a waiting motorcycle nearby which was being driven by an accomplice, on which they made good their escape, speeding the wrong way doing a one-way street.

Police had previously said the attack had the hallmarks of a professional hit-job.

Vidal-Quadras himself seems to have survived the shooting by sheer chance, as the bullet passed through his jaw and mouth before leaving through the cheek, rather than entering his skull. He was conscious and despite heavy bleeding was able to board the ambulance by foot. He underwent critical surgery at a Madrid hospital and is now recovering and has spoken to police.

The arrests made today may be linked to the ownership of the motorcycle reported to have been used in the getaway, which was found burnt out on the outskirts of Madrid shortly afterwards. Its destruction was incomplete, and it was possible to discern the VIN chassis number, which revealed the vehicle had previously been linked to a suspected murderer wanted by the Paris police.

The gunman himself remains at large, but possibly is already out of the country. El Pais reports surveillance cameras around the place of the shooting caught the suspected gunman carrying out reconnaissance of the location in the days running up to the shooting of Vidal-Quadras and Spanish digital tabloid OKDiario reports police have a good description of the man.

Citing unnamed police sources, the Spanish digital tabloid claims officers have managed to analyse “the hitman’s features such as skin colour, eyes, hair, bone structure and facial features” and believe from this information he is of North African heritage.

As for a motive for the attack, this remains unclear but police have investigated a number of angles already. Petty motivations such as theft, personal relationships, or revenge seem to have been ruled out. Allegedly left-wing political violence has also been discounted because, it is claimed, police have infiltrators “in all the radical groups” and would have known about it already had they been involved.

A terrorism angle remains under consideration and counter-terror police are participating in the investigation, a potential link to Morocco is being investigated, and the possibility of an attempted political assassination by the Iranian regime has been well-publicised. No links between those arrested so far and Iran have been made public by police but as reported, Iran published a cryptic statement in Spanish shortly after the shooting warning that perpetrators of terrorism will be brought to justice.

Iran had previously declared Vidal-Quadras a “terrorist” for his longstanding involvement in the Iranian opposition in exile, and declared him as being subject to sanctions.


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