Remembering terror victims
Today (Friday) is the first anniversary of the jihadist attacks
TODAY (Friday) marks the first anniversary of the radical Islamic terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that cost the lives of 16 people and injured over 155 others of 35 different nationalities - including British and Irish citizens.
Special tributes have been organised by Barcelona city hall for the occasion today and mayoress Ada Colau has insisted ' political issues must be left aside'.
Among those who have confirmed their attendance are King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, PM Pedro Sánchez, and Catalan regional president Quim Torra.
Catalan nationalist associations had initially called to boycott the event due to the confirmed appearance of the king, who firmly criticised the independency of Cataluña in a special televised speech in October. Even regional president Torra had backed the boycott.
However, over the last week, criticism has been toned down and calls have been made for the day to focus on the victims and forming a united front against terrorism - not to express political or nationalistic views.
The event will begin with a commemorative speech and a flower offering at the Joan Miró pavement mural on Las Ramblas at 10.30. A march will lead to Plaza Cataluña where a poem will be read out in the seven languages of the fatal victims.
The victims and their families will be seated in the front rows, with authorities to one side.
At 17.00 on August 17, 2017, jihadist Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, drove through Las Ramblas killing 13 people and injuring over 100. Later that night in Cambrils, five other members of the terrorist cell killed a woman along the promenade before they were shot dead by police.
The number of fatal victims increased to 15 when it was discovered that 34-year-old Pau Pérez, found stabbed the back seat of a car in San Just Desvern was actually killed by Younes as he tried to escape.
A 51-year-old German woman injured in Barcelona died 10 days later due to her injuries.
The fatal victims were from seven different countries. Six were Spanish, three Italian, two Portuguese, one Belgian, one Canadian, a US citizen and a seven-year-old boy with dual British and Australian citizenship.
The youngest victim was Xavi (aged three years), who died alongside his mother's uncle, Francisco López. Sevenyear-old Julian Cadman, who had joint British and Australian citizenship, died in hospital.
The other victims of the Las Ramblas rampage were: Pepita Codina, 75, from Barcelona; 40year-old Silvina Alejandra Pereyra, a Spaniard born in Argentina; Elke Vanbockrijck, 44, from Belgium; Italians Bruno Gullota, 35, and Luca Russo, 25; 80-year-old Carmen Lopardo from Argentina; US citizen Jared Tucker, 42; Canadian Ian Moore Wilson; and a 74-year-old Portuguese grandmother and her grand-daughter, 20.
Ana María Suarez, 67, from Zaragoza, was the only victim killed by the terrorists in Cambrils and was on holiday on the Costa Dorada.
The Cambrils terrorists tried to escape a police check near the harbour and eventually turned the car upside down in their escape. The managed to get out of the vehicles and stabbed several people - killing one woman - along the promenade before they were shot dead.
In Barcelona, the bursting of the airbag when Younes hit a postcard stall in Las Ramblas had put a stop to his rampage. He managed to escape during the confusion and CCTV cameras checked later by police show he ran to Les Boqueries market.
From there he continued approximately five kilometres on foot to the university area of Barcelona, where he stabbed Pau Pérez to death to hijack his Ford Focus car.
He encountered a police check and tried to escape. Officers fired shots but did not hit him; however, they pursued the car and finally found it in nearby Sant Just Desvern. When they found Pau Pérez dead in the back seat, their attention focused on him and all trace of Younes was lost until Monday afternoon.
A local resident in Subirats spotted Younes Abboyaaqoub and police tracked him down to the road that goes to Sant Sadurní d'Anoia (in Cava country).
Younes tried to escape through the vineyards but could not outrun police. When they finally caught up with him he opened his jacket to reveal an explosive belt (later proved fake) and shouted ' Alahhu Akbar' (Ala is great) before he was gunned down by officers.
As a result of the attacks, security was tightened in many towns and cities across Spain.
Many towns on the Costa Blanca installed concrete bollards and planters to impede the passage of vehicles through pedestrianised areas, while areas where crowds gather are being subjected to increased surveillance.
'No Tenim Por'
The very night of the attacks minutes of silence were held in practically every town in Spain to show solidarity toward Barcelona.
The next day an estimated 100,000 people attended a demonstration, which saw political parties and even central and Catalan regional governments put their differences to one side to form a united front to condemn the attack and show solidarity towards victims.
A minute of silence was held and was broken to the cry: "No tenim por" (We are not afraid), which became the city's slogan to overcome the massacre.
Las Ramblas was reopened to pedestrians the very morning after the attacks and the Miró pavement mural - near where the van finally stopped - became a tribute site where thousands of candles, flowers, cards and messages have been placed.
The chief of the Catalan police (Mossos d'Esquadra) appeared before the press the following Monday to clearly state: "All members of the terrorist cell are either dead or have been arrested."
The attacks were later linked to an explosion that completely demolished a house in Alcanar, a small village in Tarragona province close to the border with Castellón, the previous Wednesday (two days before the attacks).
The four detainees were Driss Oukabir (28), Mohamed Aalla (27), Salh El Karib (34) arrested in Ripoll (Gerona) shortly after the attacks and Mohamed Houli Chemlal (21) who was injured in the Alcanar house explosion where the cell were preparing a much greater massacre with explosives.
The judge immediate imprisoned Driss Oukabir and Mohamed Houli Chemlal for their direct involvement in the attacks.
Mohamed Aalla was released pending further enquiries as the proprietor of the Audi A3 the terrorists were driving in Cambrils, however the ownership was due to insurance reasons and the real owner was his brother Said - who was killed by police on the promenade.
The fourth detainee, Salh El Karib, was remanded in custody pending further investigations. El Karib is the owner of a local cybercafé providing telephone services in Ripoll. According to the judge his only link so far to the cell is that he used his credit card to purchase airline tickets for two of the deceased jihadists.
The terrorists shot in Cambrils were Moussa Oukabir (17, the youngest member of the cell), Said Aallaa (18), Mohamed Hychami (24), Omar Hychami (21) and El Houssaine Abouyaaqoub (19). One officer, a former member of the Spanish Legion and whose identity has not been disclosed, shot four of them.
One of the key figures in the attacks was Imam Abdelbaky Es Satty, who died manipulating explosives at the house in Alcanar. Although he had no police record for terrorism, his name appeared in an investigation carried out against jihadists in 2011.
It was later revealed that he served a sentence in Castellón prison for drug trafficking from 2010 until January 2014.
He had also lived in Vilvoorde, near Brussels (Belgium) from January to March 2016 - where he may have been in contact with jihadists and tried to get employment as an imam there.
Es Satty carried out an ' express indoctrination' of the men who became jihadists within a few months.
Despite the majority of its members living in Ripoll, the cell prepared the attacks at a house on the Montecarlo urbanisation in Alcanar.
Police discovered that the terrorists were preparing homemade TATP, a very volatile explosive used by IS and nicknamed 'Satan's mother' for which they required a large amount of butane and propane gas bottles.
TATP was used in the 2016 attack on Brussels airport and metro. It is very sensitive to friction and heat, which could have caused the blast that destroyed the house.
That blast changed all their plans and avoided what could have been a much larger massacre.
Police initially believed it was caused by an accidental gas explosion, the events of the following day linked it to the terrorists, especially when over 100 bottles of gas were eventually found among the debris.
It appears they had been preparing the attack for several months stealing or buying gas bottles and other elements needed to fabricate TATP.
The terrorist plans would have been to detonate huge amounts of TATP to cause a massacre similar to that of the 11-M train attacks in Madrid.
Two terrorists died at the Alcanar house blast: Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty and Youssef Aallaa.
Investigators believe the cell members feared police would soon discover the truth among the house debris, so they rapidly acted to rent the vehicles and carried out the attacks on Thursday.
They hired three vans and attached fake explosive jackets to themselves. Two were found after the attacks, in Cambrils and Vic.
Younes Abouyaaqoub drove the third van to Barcelona and carried out the Las Ramblas massacre while another five terrorists planned to do likewise in a car along the promenade in Cambrils.
All cell members were Moroccan nationals except for Mohamed Houli Chemlal who was born in Melilla.
Solidarity march - but politics got in the way
Eleven days after the attacks (August 26), King Felipe, accompanied by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, led an estimated half-a-million people in a demonstration against terrorism
It was the first time that a Spanish head of state has participated in such an event and the King was joined by thousands of Muslims and representatives from every regional and provincial government in the country. Repeated cries of “No tinc por” (“I'm not afraid” in the Catalan language) were heard throughout the event.
However, some Catalan separatist factions in the crowd jeered the King and PM Rajoy during the event. The political use of such a tribute was widely criticised not only in Spain, but also in the international media.
However, it had little impact on the Catalan independency bid that reached its climax a few months later when President Puigdemont proclaimed unilateral independence.