Police arrest two suspects after terror attack leaves dozens in hospital
At least 13 people have died and 100 have been injured after a van ploughed into a crowd of people in Las Ramblas area of Barcelona, in an attack that mirrors the spate of recent atrocities by terrorists who used vehicles to ram down civilians across Europe.
Catalan authorities confirmed that 13 people have been killed and 15 people are seriously injured following the attack in the area popular with tourists.
A Belgian national is among the dead, said Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders.
Catalonia’s Regional President Carles Puigdemont told a news conference two suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack.
Another man has been killed in a shootout with police on the outskirts of the city but it is unconfirmed whether he is one of the suspects.
It remains unclear how many attackers were involved in the terror attack.
Isis have claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s Amaq news agency said.
Police have released a picture of the man who allegedly rented the van used in the attack and is one of the two suspects arrested by police.
Spanish media named him as Driss Oukabir, who is described as a man in his twenties believed to be born in Morocco.
Two armed men were also reported to have entered a restaurant near the site of the crash, something which Catalan police later dismissed.
A second van linked to the attack has been found in the small town of Vic about 69 kilometres away from Barcelona, authorities have said.
The protocols for a terror attack have been activated.
The van entered the pedestrian street from Placa de Catalunya and reportedly zigzagged across the street before crashing into a kiosk on La Rambla.
Esta es la furgoneta utilizada en el atropello múltiple. El conductor ha huido a pie.
La foto la he recortado porque se veía una víctima. pic.twitter.com/oG8Q7WHSEe
— Xavier Aldekoa (@xavieraldekoa) August 17, 2017
The El Pais newspaper reported that the driver of the vehicle had fled on foot and that police are looking for a man about 1.70 metres tall, wearing a white and blue stripped shirt.
People are being evacuated from Las Ramblas area as police have launched a manhunt.
Meanwhile a driver has ran over two police officers at a checkpoint in Barcelona but it is unconfirmed whether the incident is linked to the van attack.
Police say a bomb squad is now checking an area on the outskirts of the city near where the drive struck the two officers.
Emergency services are urging people to avoid Las Ramblas area and requested the closure of nearby train and metro stations.
Ambulances and bomb disposal crews had gathered en masse at the scene.
Ethan Spidey, 25, told The Independent there was a “stampede” as tourists and locals sprinted away from the scene of the attack.
He said: “I was with my boyfriend just about to cross La Rambla and all of a sudden there was an immediate stampede and police shouting at people to run.
“I saw a young child knocked over and picked them up but everyone was just running.
“There was a stampede in the streets alongside La Rambla as everyone tried to run away. People were running into shops and taking refuge in cafes. There was a lot of screaming.”
Daniela Goicoechea, who was walking along La Rambla with three children aged one, two and five, told The Independent: “People started running but we didn’t know what was happening. There was a lot of people running. Then policemen began chasing people. We were lost, we ran with three babies and hid in a cafe nearby.”
Videos posted on social media shows dozens of people, seemingly injured, lying on the floor being cared for by emergency services.
Around them, the boulevard was deserted, covered in rubbish and abandoned objects including hats, flip-flops, bags and a pram.
Hospitals in Barcelona have called for blood donations following the attack to avoid potential shortages.
I was just riding my bike to the right of the Ramblas when a large white van came racing down the promenade plowing into everyone…in shock
— Dubfire (@dubfire) August 17, 2017
Total panic – we are all getting pushed back- la Ramblas pic.twitter.com/1MwYLfFZJc
— Aamer Anwar (@AamerAnwar) August 17, 2017
Aamer Anwar was walking down La Rambla at the time, which he said was “jam-packed” with tourists.
He told Sky News: “All of a sudden, I just sort of heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run, screaming. I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids.
“Police were very, very quickly there, police officers with guns, batons, everywhere. Then the whole street started getting pushed back.”
The incident took place at the height of the tourist season with Barcelona being one of Europe’s top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are in contact with the Spanish authorities and seeking more information following an incident in Barcelona.
“Anyone in the area should follow the advice of the emergency services.”
The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said terrorists will “never defeat united people”. He is on his way to Barcelona to help coordinate efforts to reinforce security following the attack.
Ada Colau, the Mayor of Barcelona, also tweeted a moving message on Twitter saying her city was one of “peace”.
“Thank you for the solidarity we have received from around the world. Barcelona is brave and united. Terror will never change that,” she said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with the victims of the “terrible attack” in Barcelona, adding: “The UK stands with Spain against terror.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also described the events as “a barbaric terrorist attack” and said London stood in solidarity with Barcelona.
He tweeted: “My thoughts are with the victims of this barbaric terrorist attack in the great city of Barcelona and with their brave emergency services.
“London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.”
While full details of the incident were not immediately clear, since July 2016 vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of militant attacks across Europe, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.
There have been no previous terror attacks claimed by Isis in Spain, where almost 200 people were killed by al-Qaeda inspired terrorists in the Madrid bombings in 2004.
The terrorist group has issued repeated calls for followers to attack “disbelievers” in the West, including detailed guidance on how to carry out vehicle attacks in high-profile public places.