Terror attack in Barcelona kills at least 13, injures scores
2 suspects jailed; Islamic State claims responsibility
USA TODAY BARCELONA, SPAIN A white van slammed into crowds on a crowded pedestrian mall Thursday in Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas tourist district, killing at least 13 people and injuring 100 in what Spanish police called a terror attack.
The U.S.-based based SITE Intelligence Group that tracks terrorist networks said the Amaq News agency, which is linked to the Islamic State, reported that the extremist group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack is the latest in a chilling trend of vehicular terrorism that requires little organization, manpower or technological know-how.
Vehicles have been used to plow into pedestrians in the United Kingdom twice this year, including a June attack on London Bridge that killed eight people, and a March attack on Westminster Bridge in which four pedestrians and one police officer were killed. In late December, a truck drove into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 and wounding nearly 50 others.
Police arrested two people in connection with the attack, said Carles Puigdemont, president of Spain’s Catalonia region.
Catalan regional police identified Oukabir Driss, 28, a Moroccan citizen and legal resident of Spain, as the man who allegedly rented the van used to crash into the pedestrians. Police said they were “treating him as a terrorist.”
The attack unfolded Thursday afternoon as pedestrians filled the bustling Las Ramblas district lined with stalls and shops in the center of Barcelo- na. August is peak tourist season in the city, which is a popular destination for Americans.
The van entered Las Ramblas at the northern edge, jumped the sidewalk and barreled into the central pedestrian zone. It careened more than 600 yards through the pedestrian section, zig-zagging through the crowds, according to Rac1. It came to stop atop the famous Joan Miro mosaic, where the attackers fled.
“We can confirm this was a terror attack. The counter-terror protocol has been activated,” the Catalan police tweeted.
Laia Gonzalez, 22, a recent university graduate who lives nearby, was getting ready to go out and shop with her parents when they heard screaming.
“We went out in the balcony and saw many people running, stumbling over each other, screaming in absolute horror, going inside shops, and shops shutting down,” she said. “All you could hear was screaming and the loud noise of (stores’) metallic blinds.”
In Washington, the White House said President Donald Trump had been alerted to the unfolding situation. He said on Twitter that the U.S. condemns the terror attack and “will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”
This year there have been several high-profile terror attacks involving vehicles across Europe. In Spain, there hasn’t been a major terrorist attack since the 2004 Madrid train bombings by al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The CIA warned Barcelona police two months ago of a possible terrorist attack targeting Las Ramblas, according to El Periodico, a Catalunya daily newspaper.
El Periodico reported that Barcelona has been on alert since last year when the Islamic State showed a picture of La Sagrada Familia — one of the most famous churches in Barcelona — among other notable landmarks such as the Coliseum in Rome, Big Ben in London and the Statue of Liberty in New York as high-risk targets.
Injured people are treated Thursday in Barcelona, Spain, after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a crowd of residents and tourists, police said.