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What we know about the Barcelona terror attack

by David Gilbert
Aug 18 2017, 7:02am

UPDATED: 16:11 p.m. EST

The suspected teenage driver of a white van that plowed through Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 100, was among the five terrorists killed by police coastal town of Cambrils, Spain’s El Pais newspaper reports.

Oukabir was shot dead 75 miles southwest of the Catalan capital, when authorities, responding to a second van attack, shot and killed four other suspected terrorists in the early hours of Friday morning. The van attack in Cambrils left one pedestrian dead before police neutralized the attackers.

Catalan authorities say the two incidents are linked, and they are now hunting members of a terrorist cell operating in the region. The group was determined to “kill as many people as possible,” according to police. Police have also linked a third incident which happened early Thursday morning when members of the cell are believed to have blown themselves up while preparing bombs using butane gas in the town of Alcanar, 120 miles south of Barcelona.

A second van, rented at the same time as the one used in the attack and believed to be the getaway vehicle, was found 50 miles away in the town of Vic.

Some of the five suspects shot dead in Cambrils — a town which has a link to the 9/11 attack — were wearing what appeared to be suicide vests or belts, but controlled explosions later showed them to be fake — echoing the fake suicide vests worn by the London Bridge attackers in June.

Investigators are operating under the assumption that the butane gas bottles which exploded in Alcanar on Thursday morning were being prepared to be used in the attack in Barcelona. According to the New York Times’ reporter Rukmini Callimuchi, the attackers attempted to hire a large truck which they were planning to pack with gas bottles and detonate in Barcelona. When they were unable to hire the van due to not having the right permits, the attackers planned to use two vans packed with gas bottles, but that plan was scrapped following the explosion.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in Barcelona through its Amaq news agency, saying: “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the Land of Andalusia.” This is Europe’s seventh vehicle attack in the space of a year, with the attacks killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm combined.

Huge crowds gathered at the top of Las Ramblas on Friday morning in a show of defiance, observing a minute’s silence and chanting: “We are not afraid.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Death toll

The driver of the white van on Las Ramblas killed 13, and left 100 injured, 15 of whom are said to be in a critical condition. Citizens from at least 34 countries were caught up in the attack Catalan authorities said. A three-year-old girl is the youngest victim of the attack when she died soon after reaching hospital. A six-year-old girl is in a critical condition, having suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. Three German and one Belgian citizens are among the dead.

The first two victims to be named are Bruno Gulotta, an Italian who was on holiday with his wife and two children, and 44-year-old Elke Vanbockrijck from the Belgian town of Tongeren.

In Cambrils, police shot and killed five attackers in the Audi A3 they drove into pedestrians in the early hours of Friday morning. One woman died as a result of her injuries Friday morning, with six others injured including one policeman.

In Alcanar, one suspected terrorist was killed and one injured in the explosion which destroyed the house. Policemen and firefighters attending the scene were also injured by a second blast.

Who are the suspects?

Moussa Oukabir is currently being sought as the driver of the white van, but police had earlier named his older brother 28-year-old Driss Oukabir, originally from Morocco as the main suspect. It is understood that he handed himself into police after his picture was circulated in the media. He has denied any part in the attack telling police that his ID was stolen by his younger brother in order to rent the vans used in the attack.

Little is known about Moussa Oukabir who recently turned 18, but a lot of attention has been focused on comments he made on social media site Kiwi, where he was asked what he would do if he was ruler of the world: “Kill the unbelievers and leave only Muslims who follow their religion.”

Along with Driss Oukabir, police have arrested three other people in relation to the attacks. One of those arrested was a Spaniard born in the north African enclave of Melilla, who was detained in Alancar on Thursday. Another other man was arrested in Ripoll where Driss Oukabir was also detained. The fourth arrest relates to the Cambrils attack, Spanish police said.

ISIS claims responsibility

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the worst attack on Spanish soil since the Madrid train bombing in 2004 when 1991 people were killed by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists.

“The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states,” the terror group said in a statement, though their claim has yet to be verified.

Jihadists have long sought terror attacks to be carried out in their name in Spain. Andalus is the Arabic name given to parts of Spain, Portugal and France occupied by Muslim conquerors — known as the Moors — from 711 to 1492. A document published last year by ISIS says that since the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, Spain “has done everything to destroy the Koran” and that “Spain is a criminal state that usurps our land.”

Global reaction

The attacks in Spain have been widely condemned across the globe. In the U.S. President Donald Trump said he was ready to do “whatever is necessary to help” while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “Terrorists around the world should know, the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice.”

The Spanish royal family called the perpetrators “assassins” adding that they “won’t terrorise us.” The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who cancelled his holiday Thursday, called the attack “jihadist terrorism” and vowed that “the terrorists will never destroy a united people who love liberty over barbarism.”

U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May said: “The UK stands with Spain against terror” while in France, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “All my thoughts and solidarity from France for the victims of the tragic attack in Barcelona. We will remain united and determined.”

Prime Minister of The Netherlands Mark Rutte called it a “cowardly attack against innocent people” describing Thursday as a “black day at a place where many people around the world gathered.”

La Rambla
Las Ramblas
Moussa Oukabir