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Cambrils; the alleged attacker

Van rams into holidaymakers in Barcelona, police foil second attack

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack in which 13 people were killed and over a hundred pedestrians injured when a white van rammed into unsuspecting holidaymakers.

Published: August 18, 2017, 10:17 am

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    From the 100 or more injured, at least 20 nationalities were hit. France’s foreign ministry said 26 of its citizens were among the injured, and Spain’s El Pais newspaper reported three of the dead as German nationals.

    Joaquim Forn, Catalonia’s police chief, has warned: “Unfortunately the number of fatalities will likely rise.” A three-year-old child was among the victims and 15 people people were in a critical condition, Spanish daily El Pais reported.

    This is the eighth terror attack in Europe in three years where a vehicle is being used as a weapon, following the Nice assault in July 2016 that killed 86, the attack in Berlin over Christmas that killed 12 people and injured 56 and a truck that ploughed into and on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge that left four and eight people dead respectively. In Stockholm, a truck was hijacked to ram into civilians, killing five and seriously injuring 14 others.

    Horrific footage showed bodies sprawled across Las Ramblas, a street popular with tourists. The police are still looking for the driver of the vehicle. They have released a photograph of Driss Oukabir, a Moroccan who is alleged to have rented the van used in the attack.

    A mere eight hours after the Barcelona jihadist attack, police shot and killed five suspects attempting to launch a similar vehicle attack in the seaside town of Cambrils, 120 kilometers south of Barcelona.

    Spanish police said the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were linked after a car ploughed into pedestrians in Cambrils. Catalan police conducted a raid early on Friday in the coastal town of Cambrils in which four suspects were killed, while the fifth, who was injured and arrested, died in custody. Civil protection authorities reported that six civilians and one police officer were wounded during the operation.

    The police had said that one terrorist could still be at large, and that the attackers were possibly wearing suicide belts, but the fifth attacker was also killed, it was reported later.

    “The alleged terrorists were in an Audi A3 and apparently knocked down several people before coming across a police patrol and a shoot-out ensued,” said a spokesman for the regional government of Catalonia. One of the suspects brandished a knife.

    Two explosions in the town of Alcanar Platja, south of Barcelona, on Wednesday night were also linked to the attack. At least one person died and more than 16 were injured in what was initially reported as a “gas explosion”, but police sources said explosives were being prepared at the house, El Periodico, a morning daily newspaper based in Barcelona, Catalonia, reported.

    The person killed in Wednesday’s deadly house explosion was reportedly also Morrocan. Butan gas canisters were found in the vicinity of the house, according to Spanish media reports.

    Catalan police chief from the Mossos d’Esquadra [the police force of Catalonia that replaced Spain’s Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil within the territory of the autonomous community of Catalonia] Josep Lluís Trapero confirmed that the explosion had been related to the terror attacks. The powerful blast not only flattened the building located on Calle Martinenca B. but also damaged a six other surrounding properties.

    According to local sources the collapsed house was inhabited by two Moroccan brothers, but from the remains found, that there could have been three people in the house, Mossos said.

    A man was shot dead after running over two police officers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona later in the evening, The Telegraph reported, but Spanish police could not confirm if the shooting had been related to the terror attacks.

    Spain has not experienced a terrorist attack since 2004, when jihadists placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1 800.

    According to El Periodico, the CIA had warned Spanish police two months ago that Las Ramblas was a potential target. “The CIA had already warned the Mossos d’Esquadra that Barcelona might be a terrorist target … They even put the focus on the Ramblas,” El Periodico stated.

    In addition, on social networks, just two weeks ago, on July 30, a Twitter account associated with the Islamic State announced an imminent attack on Al Ándalus. “We are going to implement the caliphate in Spain and we will recover our land. Impending attack on Al Andalus.”

    Accounts linked to the Islamic State on Twitter have celebrated the Barcelona attack by publishing previous threat statements against Spain and writing messages like “to all the Spaniards, now it is time to pay for everything that your governments have done to our countries.”

    In April of 2015 the Mossos, within the framework of the operation Caronte, dismantled a terrorist cell of Spanish converts to Islam and discovered that among their plans were to attack the commercial center of the Arenas, and the central police station.

    The US Government decided to open a consulate in Barcelona in 2009 as “a spy antenna in which various agencies participate with the mission of serving as an anti-jihadist intelligence base in the Western Mediterranean” El Periodico noted. As the then US ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, pointed out in a 2007 report leaked by Wikileaks “Spanish and American authorities have identified Catalonia as the largest Mediterranean center for Islamist radical activity.”

    The diplomat said: “High legal and illegal immigration from North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) as well as from Pakistan and Bangladesh makes this region a magnet for recruiting terrorists.”

    The investigation of the attack will focus on the life course of the perpetrators, the daily stated and “the first thing will be to know if these individuals were signed on as potential terrorists” in Syria.

    World leaders condemned the attack. The Russian foreign ministry said via Twitter: “We convey the words of sympathy to the people of Spain, we mourn together with you.” President Vladimir Putin was one of the first to publicly condemn the Thursday attack in Barcelona.

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