Spain launched a sweeping anti-terrorism operation on Friday, shooting dead five would-be attackers in Cambrils after a suspected Islamist militant drove a van into crowds in Barcelona, killing 14 people and wounding scores in an earlier attack.
The Islamic State group said the perpetrators had been responding to its call for action by carrying out Thursday’s rampage along Barcelona’s most famous avenue, which was thronged with holiday-makers enjoying an afternoon stroll at the peak of the tourist season.
Bodies, many motionless, were left strewn across the avenue and authorities said the toll of dead, which included several children, could rise, with more than 100 injured.
According to newspaper El Pais, the van driver, who is still at large, may be teenage Islamist militant Moussa Oukabir. His older brother, Driss Oukabir, was arrested yesterday on suspicion of hiring the van used in the attack.
Driss Oukabir has denied involvement in the attack and reportedly told police that his identity documents had been stolen and used to obtain the vehicle.
However, it has been alleged that he hired the van used in the attack in Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, near Barcelona. Police sources say a Spanish passport was found in the van. Oukabir arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on August 13, according to El Pais.
Cambrils: One dead, six injured
Hours later in the early hours of Friday, as security forces hunted for the van’s driver, police said they killed five attackers in Cambrils, a beachside town 130km southwest of Barcelona, to thwart a separate attack using fake explosive belts.
Details of the Cambrils incident, which police linked to the Barcelona attack, were still sketchy.
But police said one woman died and six civilians, including a police officer, were injured when the attackers ran them over in a car, before police shot the suspects dead and carried out controlled explosions.
Authorities later said the explosive belts were fake.
Alcanar: One dead, seven injured
Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, the day before the van ploughed into the tree-lined walkway of Barcelona’s Las Ramblas avenue, one person was killed in an explosion in a house in a town southwest of Barcelona, police said.
Police said they had arrested a Moroccan and a man from Spain’s north African enclave of Melilla, though neither of them was the van driver. He was seen escaping on foot and was still at large. A fourth man was arrested in the town of Ripoll on Friday.
A judicial source said investigators believed a cell of at least eight people, possibly 12, may have been involved in the Barcelona attack and Cambrils plot and that it was planning to use gas canisters.
Police said the two men detained on Thursday had been arrested in two towns, Ripoll and Alcanar, both in the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital.
The explosion was also in the town of Alcanar. One person died and another was injured in that incident, police said.
A man was also found dead in a car which had driven into a police checkpoint in Barcelona, though the police could not immediately confirm it was connected with the van attack.
The incident took place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, which is one of Europe’s top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year.
The injured and dead came from 34 different countries, the Catalan regional government said, ranging from France and Germany to Pakistan and the Philippines. Spanish media said several children were among those killed.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-08-18