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Md. Homeland Security Expert: Barcelona Terrorist Attack Is Unique

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Maryland has one of the world's top institution for the study of terrorism: the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security.

One of its experts said the attack in Barcelona is unique in two ways: that the attackers seem to have come from Morocco, a country that is a close neighbor to Spain, and that the terrorist suspected of causing so much carnage is very young.

After a van plowed into a street full of people, an 17-year-old is suspected to be behind the wheel.

How someone so young becomes radicalized is a question that perplexes Dr. Mike Vessely. His weapon being a vehicle wasn't a surprise.

"It's a tactic that requires very little training. Most people know how to operate a vehicle and you get the car and you can move into parts of the city without drawing a lot of attention to yourself," Vessely said. "Also they don't have to sacrifice any of their members who have technical expertise which would be the case in some of your mass shootings or explosive attacks."

There is also the problem of where the attackers came from.

"If a lot of these attackers are originating in Morocco and you have a large Moroccan population, how do you leverage that community to either, one: intervene so they don't become extremists or, two: how do you identify those who've already become extremists and are willing to take violent actions?" Vessely said.

"The truth is some of these tactics do inspire fear, he said. "If we cow down to this entirely, if we live in paranoia and question everyone around us all the time then they have won because they have changed our way of life and subverted the ideals that we hold dear."

According to Dr. Vessley, Spain has a real challenge, Morocco is a neighbor.

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