Authorities said the two attacks were related and the work of a large terrorist cell
People gather at a memorial tribute of flowers, messages and candles to the victims on Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas promenade on the Joan Miro mosaic, embedded in the pavement where the van stopped after killing at least 13 people in Barcelona , Spain, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. photo: AP/Manu Fernandez, photo: AP/Manu Fernandez
18 of August 2017 18:53:34
BARCELONA – A cell of at least nine extremists meticulously plotted to combine vehicles and explosives in a direct hit on tourists, and managed to carry off most of their deadly plan, killing 14 people, authorities said Friday. Police in Spain and France pressed a manhunt for any remaining members of the group, which Islamic State group claimed as its own.Only flawed bomb construction avoided a more devastating attack, authorities said after taking a closer look at a blast Wednesday evening in the town of Alcanar that was first written off as a household gas explosion. At least one person was killed and several injured in the home where police said the deadly plan took shape.
Eighteen hours later, a rented van veered into Barcelona's crowded Las Ramblas promenade, swerving along the walkway Thursday and killing 13 people. Armed with an ax, knives and false explosives belts, attackers drove a second vehicle to the boardwalk in the resort town of Cambrils early Friday, fatally injuring one person. Five of those attackers were shot to death, among them 17-year-old Moussa Oukabir, according to a Spanish police union official, confirming Spanish news reports.Oukabir's name was first on a document listing four suspects sought in the attacks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. The Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper, Spanish national broadcaster RTVE and other outlets cited police sources as saying he was the driver of the van in Barcelona.The arrest order was issued throughout Spain and into France, according to the Spanish official and a French police official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the document. They did not say what became of the other three men listed, who ranged in age from 18 to 24. All had roots in Morocco; only Moussa Oukabir was born in Spain, according to the document.Earlier in the day, Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said at least one "terrorist is still on out there. We do not have information regarding the capacity to do more harm."The French official said Spain had flagged a rented van that was believed to have crossed the border to the north.Moussa's brother Driss Oukabir was arrested Thursday after he went to police to report his stolen identity documents were those found in the van abandoned on the historic Las Ramblas promenade, Spanish media reported.The brothers were born and raised in Ripoll, a quiet, upscale town of 10,000 tucked into hilly Catalan heartland and dominated by the imposing tower of the Monesteri de Santa Maria. The dented door to the family's first-floor apartment swung open Friday; the home was empty.Neighbors said they were shocked by the news of Moussa Oukabir's involvement. One teenager, who identified himself only by his first name, Pau, said they played together when they were younger and he was "a good boy."
A fountain is illuminated with the Spanish national flag in Zagreb, Croatia as a tribute to the victims of the Barcelona attacks pic.twitter.com/ZT8BWuyhdj— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 18, 2017
Others described scenes of panic and found safety inside bars and restaurants until police secured the area."It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible," Trapero said.The Islamic State group said on its Aamaq news agency that the Barcelona attack was carried out by "soldiers of the Islamic State" in response to its calls for followers to target countries participating in the coalition fighting the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.Islamic extremists have targeted Europe's major tourist attractions in recent years. Rented or hijacked vehicles have formed the backbone of a strategy to attack the West and its cultural symbols. Barcelona's Las Ramblas is one of the most popular attractions in a city that swarms with foreign tourists in August.The dead and wounded in the two attacks came from 34 countries.Rajoy called the killings a "savage terrorist attack" and said Spaniards "are not just united in mourning, but especially in the firm determination to beat those who want to rob us of our values and our way of life."President Donald Trump personally offered his condolences to Rajoy and pledged to support Spanish authorities in their investigation and in bringing the perpetrators to justice, the White House said Friday.Makeshift memorials grew along Las Ramblas after it reopened to the public, albeit under heavy surveillance and an unusual quiet."It's sad," New York tourist John Lanza said, as the family stood outside the gated La Boqueria market. "You can tell it's obviously quieter than it usually is, but I think people are trying to get on with their lives."
Thousands gathered Friday on Barcelona's Placa de Catalunya to observe a minute of silence for the victims of the terror attacks in Spain. pic.twitter.com/h9gmBrnr3K— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) August 18, 2017
LORI HINNANTJOSEPH WILSONCIARAN GILES