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Search for Barcelona attacker expanded across Europe

by David Gilbert
Aug 21 2017, 8:00am

Spanish authorities have identified the driver suspected of mowing down 13 people in the deadly terror attack in Barcelona last week that also left scores injured. Police also announced Monday that they’ve expanded their hunt for him across Europe, as more information emerges about the terror cell involved in planning the attack.

“If we knew that he was in Spain and where, we would go after him,” Catalonia Police Chief Josep Luis Trapero told reporters Sunday. “We don’t know where he is.”

The driver who plowed a van into pedestrians on the city’s popular Las Ramblas promenade last Thursday has been identified as Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national, and police also suspect him of stabbing a Spanish man to death and stealing his car as he made his getaway. New CCTV footage shows Abouyaaqoub fleeing the scene on foot through the famous Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Two hours after the attack, police found a 34-year-old man dead in his vehicle in Sant Just Desvern, a small town just 25 km from Barcelona. He has been confirmed as the 15th victim of the attacks.

Authorities believe Abouyaaquob may have crossed the border into France. “This person is no longer just being sought in Catalonia but in all European countries. This is an effort by European police,” Joaquim Forn, the Catalan interior minister, told a local radio station Monday.

Police have set up 800 checkpoints and tripled the number of officers working on anti-terrorism operations, but Abouyaaqoub remains at large. Police say he is one member of a 12-person cell suspected of planning the attacks.

Five suspects were shot dead by police in the town of Cambrils after they drove their car into pedestrians hours after the Barcelona attack, killing one woman. Two others were killed when an explosion demolished a house in Alancar. Police believe the terrorists were in the process of preparing gas canisters to be used in a much bigger attack on Barcelona when the explosion happened. Police have arrested four men ranging in age from 21 to 34. Three of the men are Moroccan citizens and the other is a Spanish citizen.

Investigations into the terror cell are focusing on the small town of Ripoll — where more raids took place Monday morning — and in particular on Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to have radicalized several young men in the town. Spanish media reported that Satty met some of the men responsible for the 2004 Madrid train bombings while he was serving time in prison.

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