Now Barcelona: Copycat mass casualty attack by ISIS
13 Killed After Van Plows Into Barcelona Crowd; Driver Still At Large, ISIS Claims Responsibility
Here’s the latest:
- A terror attack took place in Barcelona when a van plowed into a crowd in Las Ramblas, killing at least 13 and injuring 100.
- The driver was arrested after escaping on foot; a second suspect has also been arrested. One is a Spanish national and one is Moroccan.
- Neither of the two arrested men was the driver according to police who remains at large.
- A third attacker has died after being shot dead by the police.
- The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
- The Spanish passport of a person of Moroccan origin was found at the scene of the attack.
- The CIA warned Spanish police two months ago that Las Ramblas was a terror target.
- This would be the deadliest terrorist attack in Spain since 2004 bombing, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.
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A white, rented van plowed into a busy street in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district. Barcelona police called it a terror attack and local media reported 13 dead and 100 injured. Witnesses saying the van zigzagged down one of Barcelona’s busiest tourist avenues, Las Ramblas, mowing down pedestrians and leaving bodies strewn across the ground. 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.
Social network footage showed numerous bodies strewn along the Ramblas, some motionless. Paramedics and bystanders bent over them, treating them.
Police said they had arrested a man linked to the attack in the heart of the city, but did not identify him or describe his role. Earlier police were searching for the van’s driver who, according to local media, fled the scene on foot. Another suspect was killed in a shootout with the police. A second man has also been arrested. One is a Spanish national and one is Moroccan.
Neither of the two arrested men was the driver according to police.
Earlier Spanish media had reported that two armed men were holed up in a bar in downtown Barcelona, and reported gunfire in the area, However, police later dismissed those reports.
The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency claims that the attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State” in response to calls to target citizens of countries “belonging to the coalition.”
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According to AP, an explosion which took place on Wednesday night in Alcanar, 120 miles south of Barcelona, is now believed to be connected to Thursday’s attack. At the time police appear to have lied saying it was a gas explosion. The house was destroyed, with six people injured and one dead. It now appears it was more than that.
According to the Telegtaph, inside the house, which police believe was occupied for a few months, they found around 20 canisters of butane and propane gas. A woman was found dead inside and a man, discovered among the rubble, was taken to hospital in a critical condition.
Some have already speculated whether the explosion may have been a failed preparation for an explosive/IED-based attack on Barcelona.
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Update 14: According to a senior police official, the 2 suspects in custody in Barcelona van attack are a Spanish national from Melilla and a Moroccan. Additionally, the police adds that neither of the detained suspects in Barcelona van attack was the driver.
Separately, according to press reports, the CIA warned Spanish police two months ago that Las Ramblas in particular was a terror target, reports said.
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Update 13: El Nacional reports that the alleged suspect Oukabir told police in Ripoll that he had nothing to do with the Barcelona attack. He said that his documents had been stolen and used to hire the car, sources told the paper. Jordi Munell, mayor of Ripoll, confirmed that Oukabir had denied any involvement in the attack.
The Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, said they were looking into the report and not confirm or deny it.
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Update 12: According to NBC, Driss Oukabir Soprano has been identified in connection to rental of van used in deadly Barcelona attack, U.S. law enforcement says
JUST IN: Driss Oukabir Soprano has been identified in connection to rental of van used in deadly Barcelona attack, U.S. law enforcement says
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 17, 2017
As Telegraph adds, one of the vans used to carry out the murderous rampage at the heart of the city was rented by Driss Oukabir, said to have been a convicted criminal. Oukabir rented the white Mercedes van in the town of Santa Perpetua de la Mogada, 16 miles north of Barcelona, according to Spanish police.
Anti-terrorism sources told the newspaper that Oukabir arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on August 13. Police have been identifying his associates in a bid to work out who was behind the terror attack. The same sources said Oukabir was known to have spent time in Madrid this year and police were attempting to work out where he stayed and who he met there. A local newspaper in Catalonia, El Nacional, reported that Oukabir told police in Ripoll that he had nothing to do with the Barcelona attack. He said that his documents had been stolen and used to hire the car, sources told the paper. Jordi Munell, mayor of Ripoll, confirmed that Oukabir had denied any involvement in the attack.
According to police audio recordings, the driver of the van was 1m 70cm tall, dressed in a white shirt with blue stripes.
Police found a Spanish passport inside the van.
Spanish reports claimed Oukabir was born in Morocco in 1989 and legally resident in Spain. But in what is believed to be his Facebook profile, he says he was from Marseille, southern France, but living in Ripoll, in Catalonia, northern Spain. On Tuesday, he changed his profile picture to one depicting him sunbathing on an identified beach. Wearing white headphones, he posed for the picture on a blue towel laid out next to a pink one.
It is unclear whether the photographer was male or female but police were understood to be investigating he either arrived in the city with a woman, or met one. His profile, on which he calls himself Driss Oukabir Soprano, states that he has been in a relationship since December 2013 and contains links to more than 700 friends, several of whom were likely relatives with the same Oukabir surname. Within minutes of his name being released, the profile was flooded with vitriolic messages, condemning him for any apparent involvement. The profile was later removed from the internet.
Over the last few weeks, Oukabir posted links to several hip hop music videos on YouTube. One of them, he described as being “for my brother”. In one video the all boy band, who sing in French, are seen celebrating and singing about vodka. In another, they revel in their love for expensive sports cars and women. In July, he republished a post containing graphic images of a masked gunman holding a screaming child. The caption read: “Alas! what has happened to our Arabism. “Even the children haven’t been rescued from the Israeli Occupation.”
Police are understood to have made an arrest following the attack but the suspect has not yet been identified.
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Update 11: According to a statement from the Amaq news agency, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack. The
statement says the attack was in response to IS calls to “soldiers of the Islamic State” to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive the extremist group from Syria and Iraq.
The statement provided no further details about the attackers.
Additionally, Catalonia’s regional president said there have been two arrests after the Barcelona van attack, which killed 13 and hospitalised 80.
Separately AP reports that a suspect who attacked an officer of the Mossos d’Esquadra, or the Barcelona police, at a checkpoint on the road out of Barcelona after the attack has reportedly been found dead in his car. The body was discovered in Sant Just Desvern, 3km from where the police fired shots in an attempt to stop him. It was unclear whether he died from the gunshot wounds of police, or whether he killed himself.
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Update 10: Local media reports that one of the suspected attackers involved in mowing down people in Barcelona has been killed in a shootout with police on the outskirts of the city, La Vanguardia newspaper reported. Police earlier confirmed they had arrested a man in connection with the attack. It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved in the incident
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Update 9: Spain’s royal palace has condemned the deadly van attack in Barcelona, calling the perpetrators “assassins, simply criminals who will not terrorize us.” The royal palace’s statement, which was posted on Twitter, also said that “All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will once again be for all.”
In a separate tweet, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that “the terrorists will never destroy a united people who love liberty over barbarism. All of Spain is with the victims and families.”
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Update 8: The Catalan Police says that in response to reports, there is nobody held up in a bar in Barcelona. Meanwhile, Fox reports that someone has opened fire on police in a second possible attack:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 17, 2017
Update 7: The Spanish passport of a person of Moroccan origin was found at the scene of the attack, TV3 reports. Additionally, the police force for Spain’s Catalonia region says it has arrested a man in the Barcelona van attack and is “treating him as a terrorist.” The police force announced the arrest on Twitter Thursday evening.
It denied earlier media reports that officers had a suspect surrounded in a bar. The tweet said: “There is nobody held up in any bar in the center of Barcelona. We have arrested one man and we are treating him as a terrorist.” Meanwhile, the region’s interior minister is calling on residents to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary travel while the investigation continues.
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Update 6: Trump and Melania tweet:
The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Thoughts and prayers to #Barcelona
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 17, 2017
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Update 5: Attack witness Lourdes Porcar has told Spain’s TV3 television station that she saw the van running people over. “It was going very fast, without caring about who was in its way.”
Additionally, Police have set up roadblocks around the city amid reports that a second van was involved in the attack and fled the scene.
As reported earlier, there are also reports that at least on attacker is holed up in a Turkish restaurant on Carrer Hospital, which leads off from the spot in which the van appears to have come to a halt. Television pictures show that a van came to a halt on top of a Joan Miro mosaic, half-way down Las Ramblas – meaning that it would have covered more than 500 metres, mowing dow anyone in its path.
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Update 4: According to a leading terrorism analyst, there is “growing confidence” the Islamic State may be behind the Barcelona attack as message to Spain popping up on key IS-linked Telegram channels.
— Michael S. Smith II (@MichaelSSmithII) August 17, 2017
Update 3: According to El Mundo the number of dead increased to 13, while over 50 have been injured. Additionally, as the Telegraph adds, Police stationed at the cordon a block away from Plaza Catalunya, on Passeig de Gracia, say they have no information what is happening inside. Confused tourists, shoppers and business owners gathered at its edges, awaiting some word or direction as to what to do.
The Catalan police say they are treating the crash as a suspected terrorist attack but cannot yet confirm the motive. According to media reports, the attack vehicle was a rented van. That would suggest, if this is confirmed as a terrorist attack, that terrorists are imitating the perpetrators of the London Bridge attack, where a rented van was also used.
Sky News reports that police are now looking for a second van that may have been involved in the attack.
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Update 2: Daksha Dixit, a 28 year old tourist visiting from Mumbai with family, told the Telegraph they had been on a tourist bus which had just dropped them off one block from Plaza Cataluña when they heard the news. “We got off and people were panicking, no one knew what was going on. There was panic everywhere.” The family arrived just yesterday for a one week trip and their hotel is on the Ramblas inside the cordon. They were unclear as to what exactly was unfolding, with Miss Dixit adding: “I don’t know what to do”.
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Update 1: According to Reuters, two armed men have holed up inside a Turkish restaurant after the crash and have taken hostages, while El Periodico tweets that there was an active shootout in the area, in what the Barclona police now say is considered a “terrorist attack.”