Posted on August 18, 2017

ISIS Van Attack in Barcelona Kills Thirteen and Injures More than 100

Iain Burns, Dave Burke, and Tom Worden, Daily Mail, August 17, 2017

Driss Oukabir

Driss Oukabir, the Moroccan responsible for it all.

At least 13 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in Barcelona after a van ploughed into pedestrians in a busy tourist street.

More than two hours after the atrocity a suspect was shot dead after driving through a roadblock in a Ford Focus and opening fire, injuring two police officers.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, describing the killers as ‘soldiers of the Islamic state’. Terror police have arrested two more suspects.

One of them is a Spanish national, while the other is Moroccan, but neither of those arrested was the driver of the van.

It is has yet to be confirmed that the man who was shot dead at the roadblock was involved in the terror attack.

Police officials this evening stated that the attack is being linked to an explosion which killed one person at a home south of Barcelona, where officers believe canisters filled with butane were being stockpiled.

In the aftermath of the attack police circulated the image of Driss Oukabir, a 28-year-old Catalan resident of Moroccan origin, saying he had rented out a second van thought to be intended as a getaway vehicle – where his documents were found. A man was arrested at the scene.

But police sources said Oukabir later handed himself in at a police station in Ripoll, 65 miles north of Barcelona, claiming his brother had stolen his documents.

His brother is named Moussa Oukabir, 18, who lives in Barcelona, El Pais reports.

Horrifying pictures and video from the scene of the Las Ramblas attack show armed police and paramedics rushing around the busy promenade in the centre of the city, as victims lie hurt in the street.

Video has emerged seeming to show a police officer lying on the ground injured in Sant Just Desvern, on the outskirts of Barcelona, after the Ford Focus drove through a roadblock.

Josep Lluis Trapero, the head of the regional police force the Mossos d’Esquadra, said the attack was designed ‘to kill as many people as possible’.

He said police were connecting the attack to an explosion at a house in Alcanar, 125 miles south of Barcelona, late last night.

One person died and six were injured in the explosion, reportedly caused by a build-up of gas, which caused the house to collapse.

Mr Trapero told a news conference: ‘At 16.50 a van entered the pedestrian area of the Rambla, and drove for many meters, running over hundreds of people.

‘Many of them were injured and it caused the death of 13 people. The driver got out of the van and ran away. There was no shouting, no phrases which sometimes accompany such attacks. Witnesses called the emergency services and gave a description.

‘The Mossos began Operation Cage, an anti-terrorist operation throughout Catalonia. There is no evidence that the person who left the van was armed. We do not believe he was armed, at least visibly.

‘We entered all of the bars and establishments of the area to check nobody was hiding. This was clearly a terrorist attack with the intention of killing as many people as possible.

‘It is believed to be connected with a second incident – the explosion of a house in Alcanar. We received an alert of an explosion where one person has died and others were injured.

‘A part of the building collapsed. We are linking these two incidents. I cannot give further details as we are still working on the investigation.

‘This led to the arrest of two people directly implicated in this attack. This does not mean that the two people under arrest are those who carried out the attack in Barcelona – but they are connected to the attack.

‘Neither of them was the person driving the van. Neither of them has any convictions for terrorism. One is from Melilla (a Spanish enclave in north Africa) and the other is Moroccan.

‘One person was arrested in Alcanar and the other, a Moroccan, in Ripoll.’

Mr Trapero confirmed one person was shot dead as a car attempted to break through a police cordon, leaving an officer with a broken leg.

But he said: ‘He is a Spanish national and at the moment we have no indication he is linked to these other people.’

Three Germans were among those killed, Spanish media reported. There were also Greek and Belgian nationals among the dead.

It remains unclear how many attackers were involved in the massacre, which is being treated by police as an act of terrorism.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has confirmed that one of the victims was from Belgium.

The president of Spain’s Catalonia region says police have arrested two people following the van attack, which happened in Barcelona’s bustling Las Ramblas district.

In a brief news conference this evening Carles Puigdemont said 12 people are confirmed dead and at least 80 have been hospitalised after the van drove onto a sidewalk and swerved through a busy pedestrian area.

The region’s interior minister had earlier tweeted that 13 people had died in the attack.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau says a moment of silence will be held in the city’s main square at noon Friday ‘to show that we are not scared and we are more united that ever’.

Police have confirmed that at least 84 people are hurt, with Catalonia’s interior minister Joaquim Forn saying it is ‘very possible’ that the number of dead will rise because of the ‘very serious’ wounds to victims.

The civil guard has said the van used in the attack was rented in the town of Santa Perpetua de la Mogada, which is around 15 miles by road from the scene of today’s killings.

A second van was found parked in the town of Vic, which is around 50 miles north of Barcelona. Police believe it was meant to be used as a getaway vehicle.

Police are said to have now found a second transit van hired at the same time as the vehicle used in the attack.

It was found parked in the town of Vic some 50 miles north of Barcelona and officers believe that a second person involved in today’s attack used it to get away from the Catalan capital.

Spanish media had also reported that two armed men were holed up in a bar in downtown Barcelona and reported gunfire in the area but police later dismissed those reports.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing people running away and screaming after the terror attack happened.

A witness called Angel said he had seen the attacker close up and described him as ‘a young man, maximum 25 years old, chestnut brown hair and skinny.’

Others described him as about 5ft 6in tall and wearing a blue and white striped top.

Another witness, Isaac, said: ‘The person was accelerating. He mounted the pavement to run people over. We saw the van passing by running people over at 50 miles an hour. It was as if it was driving through a field of corn.’

A taxi driver told Catalan TV station TV3: ‘The van was doing zigzags knocking over everyone he could. It was shocking.’

Steve Garrett was in a nearby market and sheltered in a bakery with several others after streams of people ran inside.

One member of the group, who took refuge with him, said she had heard gunshots after the incident.

Mr Garrett told the BBC: ‘A very large number of people ran into the market area in a big kind of way, lots of screaming, lots of shouting.

‘The security guards immediately responded. We ran into the bakery with four or five other people and ran straight upstairs and hunkered down whilst an enormous wave of people went through the market.

‘Obviously coming from England it was reminding me a great deal of what happened in London, so we were very concerned about what might be going on next.

‘The lady that was with us said she heard some gunshots.’

Mr Garrett said a ‘second wave’ of people then entered the market, followed by armed police.

He said: ‘They seemed to sweep through the market area. They seemed to be looking for someone. They were going very carefully, very cautiously, stall to stall.’

Police were reported to have found a Spanish passport inside the van.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said he is in contact with all emergency services and stressed the priority is to help the injured.

Armed police were also seen rushing into the area while emergency services asked to close Metro and train stations in the city.

One witness told Sky News: ‘It was quite terrifying. All of a sudden scores of people ran towards us, hysterical, children hysterical… first of all they said someone had been shot.

‘All of a sudden a second wave of people came down the street, we just ran, I lost my husband in the melee. The shops went into lockdown mode.’

She added: ‘We really had no idea what was going on other than that we needed to get ourselves out of there very quickly… there was just hundreds of people running away very quickly.’

Another said: ‘We were just told to run, it must have been quite close because… there was an immediate stampede to run away. We were just a minute away from it.’

The local police force was said to be evacuating the area including the nearby main square the Plaza de Catalunya.

El Periodico said the CIA had warned local police two months ago that La Rambla could be the scene of a terrorist attack.

‘Huge collision on Las Ramblas in Barcelona by an individual driving a van, many injuries,’ a statement from Catalan police said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain ‘stands with Spain against terror’ in response to the tragic news.

She added: ‘My thoughts are with the victims of today’s terrible attack in Barcelona and the emergency services responding to this ongoing incident. The UK stands with Spain against terror.’

US President Donald Trump condemned the attack and promised to do ‘whatever is necessary to help’ the Spanish.

As news of the atrocity was breaking, US First Lady Melania Trump tweeted: ‘Thoughts and prayers to #Barcelona’.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with the victims of this barbaric terrorist attack in the great city of Barcelona and with their brave emergency services.’

Mr Khan added: ‘London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.’

The United States offered its assistance to Spain, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson adding that consular assistance was being provided to Americans in the city. He also urged US nationals to check in with their families.

‘Terrorists around the world should know – the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice,’ Tillerson told a press conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their Japanese counterparts.

Aamer Anwar was walking down Las Ramblas at the time, which he said was ‘jam-packed’ with tourists.

He told Sky News: ‘All of a sudden, I just sort of heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run, screaming. I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids.

‘Police were very, very quickly there, police officers with guns, batons, everywhere. Then the whole street started getting pushed back.’

Mr Anwar described the scene as ‘chaos’, with everyone in ‘panic mode’.

He added: ‘Police officers who got there just started screaming at people to move back, move back.

‘One of the shopkeepers tried to speak to him. He said he saw five or six people seriously injured on the ground, a van had driven into people.

‘And literally within probably 30 seconds, police vans, ambulances, police officers with guns, were piling out and we were being sectioned off and then being pushed rapidly back down Ramblas.’

Will Ako, 26, from London, was eating in a restaurant called Taller De Tapas with his family when they heard a disturbance.

He told the Press Association: ‘We had just finished eating and were about to leave when we heard a commotion and the patrons in the restaurant rushing from their seats.

‘I then saw people running to the east of the restaurant and I saw a couple of people about 30 yards down the road crouching around what looked like someone on the ground and they were calling for assistance.

‘Within a couple of minutes, police started to arrive and they were running west of the restaurant and some were telling us to stay inside.

‘Soon after, loads of cars, bikes and ambulances arrived and then the armed police.’

He said he was in the restaurant with around 40 people, adding: ‘We’re not sure what’s happening.’

Tom Gueller, who lives on an adjoining road, was forced to flee the scene when he saw the van hurtling through the crowds.

He told BBC’s PM: ‘I heard screams and a bit of a crash and then I just saw the crowd parting and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas and I immediately knew that it was a terrorist attack or something like that.

‘I ran away, I mean I live near, I had to run back about 50 metres or so and go up to my flat and obviously see what’s happening on the road from my balcony.’

Asked about the van, he said: ‘It wasn’t slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds in the middle of the Ramblas.’

Mr Gueller said many of the shops had pulled their shutters down and armed police were positioned on street corners, with cordons in place on the road.

Tourist Mel Higgins told Sky News she was barricaded into a shop with her daughters at the time of the incident.

She said: ‘I was with my two daughters and we were walking down the Passeig de Gracia, which is sort of parallel and one up from Las Ramblas, when suddenly people just started running towards us, screaming and shouting: ‘Run! Run! Run!’.

‘So I grabbed the two girls and there was an Orange phone shop was open and we ran inside and they locked the doors of the phone shop, and we just all waited there for I suppose about 20 minutes.

‘And then it seemed very calm out on the street. And obviously the people working in Orange were in touch with the police and the police said just stay there for now.

‘Then about 20 minutes later, they said we could leave and we were just about to leave when people started running again, and screaming, and they said: ‘Everyone back in!’.’

Thomas Riley, a civil servant from London, 22, had just left Catalunya station 300 feet from Las Ramblas with his father and brother when he heard ‘shouting and crying’.

The trio were directed back into the Metro station and locked in by police, before being ordered to take the first train.

He told MailOnline: ‘There was lots of commotion, shouting, and people crying. I was very frightened because no one would speak English to me.

‘The emergency services and officials acted very swiftly and we were directed back down onto the metro station and locked there for a while.

‘I still had no idea what had happened by this point. An empty train arrived at a platform and we were all told to get on it quickly!

‘Once the station was empty, we were taken out of the area a few stops picking people up en route.’

Mr Riley said the terrified passengers were directed by police to the seafront, where they were asked to ‘hide’ due to reports of gunmen on the loose.

He said: ‘Lots of people on the tube were in tears. Once I got above ground, the streets were cut off by police everywhere.

‘There was lots of confusion and people checking phones. The police told us to stay calm and hide due to reports of gunmen.

‘Eventually, we were directed to the sea front by officials and I was asked if I had information by the police.’

Authorities in the area have warned people to stay away from the area.

The incident has taken place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, which is one of Europe’s top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year.