NEWS

Terrorists Plow Over Pedestrians In 2 Deadly Attacks In Spain

It happened in Barcelona

18/08/2017 06:38 SAST | Updated 18/08/2017 06:41 SAST
  • A van rammed into pedestrians on a popular tourist street in Barcelona Thursday afternoon, killing 13 and injuring more than 100.
  • Authorities have arrested two suspects, but the driver is still at large.
  • In Cambrils, 70 miles south of Barcelona, police said they killed five terrorists who ran over several people in a car. At least one was wearing a bomb belt.
  • Police said they are investigating possible links between the attacks in Cambrils and Barcelona, and an earlier explosion in the town of Alcanar, 120 miles from Barcelona.

Terrorist violence erupted at two popular Spain tourist spots Thursday, with a van driver plowing into pedestrians in central Barcelona, killing 13 and injuring more than 100, and police shooting five suspects to death to disrupt a similar plot in the coastal town of Cambrils.

Hours after a van zigzagged through a crowded Barcelona street, police said they broke up what may be a related attack in Cambrils some 70 miles away in a deadly shootout with attackers who ran people over with a car, according to The Associated Press. Police killed five suspected terrorists in the Audi A3, at least one of whom was wearing an explosive belt. Six civilians and a police officer were injured. Photos published by The Guardian show police officers investigating a black car on a sidewalk.

In Barcelona, the van driver swerved back and forth to mow down dozens of pedestrians on a sunny afternoon, "weaving left and right, trying to hit people as fast as possible," a witness told the BBC.

Police said they were investigating possible links between the two attacks and an earlier explosion that destroyed a house in the town of Alcanar, about 120 miles from Barcelona. One person was killed and seven were injured in the blast, which authorities at first thought was an accidental gas explosion.

Two suspects in the Barcelona attack were arrested, Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont said. The van driver got away on foot, according to police.

The self-described Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack via its Amaq news agency. However, it is unclear to what extent, if any, the group's leadership was directly involved. Police said the incident was a terror attack, but later tweeted they could not confirm the driver's motive.

The attack occurred on Las Ramblas, a historic street leading to a central plaza in Barcelona. A pedestrian walkway runs down the center of the street, with cars driving on either side.

"There was loud bangs and people started running into shops," witness Ethan Spibey told Sky News, describing a "mini stampede" of people running down an alleyway.

Authorities immediately locked down the area, shutting metro stations and asking businesses to close.

Spibey said he was locked into a church with as many as 60 other people, waiting for police to clear the area.

"I heard a crowd screaming," said Tom Markwell, a tourist from New Orleans. "It sounded like they were screaming for a movie star."

Authorities arrested suspects in Ripoll and Alcanar, towns in Catalonia. One is Moroccan and the other is a Spanish national from Melilla, a Spanish city on Africa's north coast that neighbors Morocco, police Chief Josep Lluis Trapero said in a news conference.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged people to focus on serving the wounded and facilitating the work of authorities. He later tweeted that he was heading to Barcelona, and said the government would take measures to reinforce security. The government declared three days of mourning.

The attack was the deadliest in Spain since 2004, when al Qaeda-inspired militants detonated bombs on Madrid's subway system, killing 191 and injuring more than 1,800.

Car and truck attacks have killed more than 100 people in separate incidents across Europe in recent years. Extremist groups have long advocated for their supporters to use vehicles to target pedestrians, and authorities have struggled with ways to address the threat.

The majority of the recent attacks in Europe were carried out by Islamic State militant group sympathizers, and the organization has actively incited individuals to kill people with vehicles. In the deadliest of such incidents, the Islamic State claimed responsibility after a man drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice and killed 84 people.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged people to focus on serving the wounded and facilitating the work of authorities. He later tweeted that he was heading to Barcelona, and said the government would take measures to reinforce security.

World leaders issued condemnations of the attack, as well as offers of support for Spain. British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all voiced their sympathy for the victims.

President Donald Trump also tweeted a statement on the attack, saying that United States would do whatever is necessary to help. But shortly after his measured initial statement, Trump tweeted a tirade against "Radical Islamic Terror" and referenced an apocryphal story he's told in the past about killing Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pig's blood.

  • David Armengou/EPA/REX/Shutterstock
    Injured people react after a van crashed into pedestrians in a crowded tourist area in Barcelona Thursday.
  • David Armengou/EPA/REX/Shutterstock
    Police officers attend to injured people.
  • PAU BARRENA via Getty Images
    A woman cries as she talks on the phone.
  • Nicolas Carvalho Ochoa via Getty Images
    Medics and police tend to injured people.
  • David Armengou/EPA/REX/Shutterstock
    Police officers and emergency service workers move an injured person into an ambulance.
  • JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images
    People react as they leave a cordoned-off area.
  • JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images
    People put their hands up as police check their identities near the scene of the attack.
  • David Ramos via Getty Images
    People look toward the scene of the terrorist attack.
  • JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images
    Armed policemen stand in a cordoned-off area.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    People move away from the area.
  • JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images
    Policemen stand next to vehicles.
  • JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images
    Police said at least 90 people were injured in the attack, and confirmed multiple fatalities.
  • PAU BARRENA via Getty Images
    Authorities shut down metro stations in the area.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    A woman cries near the scene.
  • David Ramos via Getty Images
    A damaged van, believed to be the one used in the attack, is surrounded by police officers.
  • LLUIS GENE via Getty Images
    Spanish policemen accompany people leaving the cordoned off area.

Laura Riestra of El HuffPost contributed from Madrid.