Ter­ror­ist cell ‘dis­man­tled’ but killer van driver still on the run

Sunday Herald - - AFTER BARCELONA - BY PETER SWIN­DON

Tdown pedes­tri­ans on Las Ram­blas is still on the run.

Last night, au­thor­i­ties said Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroc­can, has yet to be traced fol­low­ing the terror at­tack. How­ever, at a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, Span­ish in­te­rior min­is­ter Juan Ig­na­cio Zoido de- clared po­lice have bro­ken the “ter­ror­ist cell from Barcelona” af­ter five mem­bers were killed, four were in de­ten­tion and two were al­most cer­tainly killed in an ex­plo­sion. He said no new at­tacks were im­mi­nent, and that se­cu­rity forces will be main­tain­ing the coun­try’s ter­ror­ist threat alert at level four – one notch be­low the high­est level. Se­cu­rity at events and tourist sites around the coun­try will also be re­in­forced.

Cata­lan Po­lice spokesman Al­bert Oliva later con­firmed a man­hunt is un­der way for any re­main­ing mem­bers of the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist cell, with the search fo­cused on Abouyaaqoub. He said of­fi­cers have car­ried out nine searches of prop­er­ties in Ripoll, the north­ern Cata­lan town where Abouyaaqoub and other sus­pects lived. Abouyaaqoub has been named in Span­ish media as the sus­pected driver of the van, which was used in the mas­sacre on Las Ram­blas that left 13 dead and nearly 130 in­jured. A 14th vic­tim was killed in a fol­low-up in the town of Cam­brils.

An­other sus­pect, Moussa Ouk­abir, who is thought to have rented the van, was among five men shot dead as they launched the sec­ond at­tack in the coastal town of Cam­brils in the early hours of Fri­day. Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for both at­tacks.

The teenager, said to be 17 or 18 years old, is sus­pected of us­ing his brother’s doc­u­ments to hire the ve­hi­cle that ploughed into pedes­tri­ans in the tourist hotspot on Thursday evening.

He re­port­edly died along with Said Aal­laa, 19, and Mo­hamed Hy­chami, 24, who were part of a group that mounted a sim­i­lar at­tack in Cam­brils that left one woman dead and six peo­ple in­jured. The iden­ti­ties of the other ji­hadists shot dead in Cam­brils are yet to be con­firmed by po­lice. Four men, aged 21, 27, 28 and 34, who were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the at­tack re­main in cus­tody.

Three are Moroc­can and one Span­ish, and po­lice said none of them was pre­vi­ously known to the se­cu­rity ser­vices for terror-re­lated rea­sons.

Moussa Ouk­abir’s older brother, Driss Ouk­abir, is re­ported to be one of those de­tained. Said Ouk­abir, the fa­ther of the Ouk­abir broth­ers, said he was “in shock” that his sons were sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the at­tacks. His sons had shown no sign of rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, he added.

Some 34 na­tion­al­i­ties were among al­most 130 peo­ple wounded in the at­tacks in Las Ram­blas and in Cam­brils. Au­thor­i­ties said 54 peo­ple in­jured are still in hospi­tal, with 12 in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion and 25 in a se­ri­ous con­di­tion.

It comes af­ter po­lice re­vealed the ter­ror­ists be­hind the ram­page were pre­par­ing big­ger at­tacks, with a sus­pected gas ex­plo­sion on Wed­nes­day at a house in Al­ca­nar be­lieved to have robbed the killers of ma­te­ri­als to use in larger-scale op­er­a­tions. Two ter­ror­ists are be­lieved to have died in the ex­plo­sion.

Po­lice carry out bags af­ter a search of a build­ing in Ripoll, north of Barcelona, home­town of the at­tack sus­pects

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