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Wednesday October 10, 2012

The lone wolf who hated the world

Juan Manuel Morales is sitting on a park bench in a T-shirt and leather jacket in front of a gnarled old olive tree with his arms spread out in relaxed fashion. From the photograph it’s clear that he’s a handsome youth with dark tousled hair and warm brown eyes who wears a shy, somewhat wistful expression. In another image shown in a Spanish newspaper he is dreamily playing a guitar just like any music loving young man might. But of course that’s where the comparison appears to end.

Following five months of intense police surveillance, Juan Manuel Morales, a 21-year-old from Majorca’s capital of Palma, was arrested for possession of 140 kilos of explosive materials which he allegedly intended to use in a potential attack at the Balearic Islands University.

It’s hard to believe that an atrocity of such magnitude might have happened here on so peaceful and idyllic a holiday island, worse still that a local boy might have contemplated so horrific an act against his own people. The Spanish National Police apparently first became aware of the electronics student’s disaffected rants on various website forums – thanks to an alert Venezuelan journalist based in Japan. It is alleged that the young Majorcan was considering creating a reenactment of the Columbine High School massacre that took place in Colorado back in April 1999. The two perpetrators of that gruesome event, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, 17 and 18 respectively, killed 13 fellow students and a teacher before committing suicide.

During the months that the Spanish police tracked Juan Manuel Morales’s movements and read his postings on various apparently inflammatory websites, they gradually built up a profile of a young man who appeared to be, according to the Spanish media, “un lobo solitario”, a lone wolf who loathed society and in particular students. It has been reported that he had been living alone in a small flat, having flown the parental home just a month before. It appears that he had few friends and spent much of his time playing internet games and poker which he allegedly used to fund his €12,000 worth of potentially lethal purchases via the internet.

The only real friends who appeared to play a part in the young man’s life were the two slain killers who had taken the lives of so many pupils at Columbine High School. According to Spanish media reports, Juan Manuel Morales identified with Klebold and Harris, writing on his blogs and in a personal diary that he shared many ideologies and interests with them.

UIB, the University of the Balearic islands, has 12,000 students many of whom could have been fair game had Juan Manuel Morales’ alleged plot to plant pipe bombs around the campus been carried out. For good measure via the internet he’d allegedly ordered tools to break into gun and ammunition stores in order to steal weapons.

Fortunately the police intercepted the massive 140 kilo order of potential bomb making materials that had been sent to the student and immediately arrested him. He now awaits trial. Who knows what was going through the mind of this unassuming, deeply solitary and reportedly highly intelligent boy. What might have been the motivation for allegedly planning such an attack?

Perhaps of concern for society is why Juan Manuel Morales felt angry enough, if that proves to be the case, to contemplate such a potentially dastardly deed. More to the point we should be worrying about how many young men just like him across the world might be feeling exactly the same way.

First published in Expat Telegraph

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