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ISIS claims responsibility for deadly Barcelona van attack

by David Gilbert and Alexa Liautaud
Aug 17 2017, 7:40pm

UPDATED: 17:30 p.m. E.T. This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.

A speeding white Fiat van plowed into pedestrians walking down Barcelona’s popular La Rambla boulevard Thursday, killing at least 13 and injuring more than 100, in what Catalan police are calling a terror attack.

The Islamic State group, through its media arm Amaq news agency, claimed credit for the deadly attack.

Police arrested two suspects in connection with the attack, identifying one as Driss Oukabir, a Moroccan man in his late 20s and another, still unnamed, as a Spanish national from Melilla. Oukabir reportedly rented the van from the town of Santa Perpetua de la Mogada, just north of the city. Neither of the two men arrested were driving the van, according to a senior police official. Police are actively searching for the driver.

The van mowed down dozens of people driving for about 500m before the suspects fled on foot, according to local media. Police say it was an attack “intended to kill as many people as possible.” The Spanish newspaper El Pais, quoting unnamed police sources, reported the perpetrators of the crash were holed up in a bar on Tallers Street, near Las Ramblas. Police said rumors circulating on local media that a hostage situation had unfolded after the crash were unfounded.

Catalonia’s Interior Minister Joaquim Forn confirmed that 13 people were dead, and more than 100 wounded.

“It looked like something out of a film, guts and flesh.”

Officials initially described the incident as a “massive crash” and emergency services warned people to stay away from the area, closing metro and train stations in the general vicinity.

Eyewitnesses described the unfolding chaos as the reality of a terror attack set in.

“It looked like something out of a film — guts and flesh,” Alec Rugo, an American vacationing in Barcelona, told VICE News.

A police officer cordon off a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona say a white van has jumped the sidewalk in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, injuring several people. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

“It was really crazy. I didn’t know it was happening on the Ramblas,” said vacationer Moran Keren. “I saw some lady that I think was dying. It was crazy. A lot of people injured.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he is in contact with the authorities and that the priority for now was to attend to the wounded. Barcelona’s mayor said she was suspending her vacation to attend to the emergency.

U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the attack, and said the U.S. would do “whatever is necessary to help.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. officials were working with Spanish authorities in Barcelona, and promised that terrorists would be brought to justice. “Terrorists around the world should know, the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice,” Tillerson said. The U.S. issued an emergency advisory to all citizens in the city, advising them to let friends and family know of their whereabouts.

In the last 12 months across Europe, there have been multiple incidents where vehicles have been driven into crowds of people, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm combined.