Ter­ror at­tack in Barcelona kills at least 13, injures scores

2 sus­pects jailed; Is­lamic State claims re­spon­si­bil­ity

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

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.

Ouk­abir Driss

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