13 people killed in Barcelona van attack, driver at large

RSTV Bureau
The aftermath of suspected vehicle attack in Spain's capital Barcelona. (Photo courtesy: www.elpais.com)

The aftermath of suspected vehicle attack in Spain’s capital Barcelona. (Photo courtesy: www.elpais.com)

A van driver ploughed into crowds of pedestrians on Barcelona’s most popular street in broad daylight, killing 13 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

Police announced the arrest of two suspects, identified as a Spaniard and a Moroccan, but said the driver was still on the run.

Witnesses told of scenes of chaos and horror, with bodies strewn along the famous boulevard as other people fled for their lives, screaming in panic.

The rampage yesterday in a city hugely popular with tourists from around the world is the latest in a wave of attacks in Europe where vehicles have been used as weapons of terror.

As world leaders united in condemning the carnage, the IS propaganda agency Amaq claimed that it was carried out by “soldiers” from the jihadist group.

Regional interior minister Joaquim Forn said 13 people had died and another 100 were injured in what police were treating as a “terrorist attack”, warning that the death toll could rise further.

Foreigners were among the victims.

Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona’s busiest streets, lined with shops and restaurants and normally packed with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

“When it happened I ran out and saw the damage,” local shop worker Xavi Perez told AFP.

“There were bodies on the ground with people crowding round them. People were crying. There were lots of foreigners.”

Witness Aamer Anwar told Britain’s Sky News television he was walking down Las Ramblas, which he described as “jam-packed” with tourists.

“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.”

Footage broadcast on Spanish television showed a white van, its front completely crushed, abandoned by its driver on a road surrounded by police cars.

Tom Gueller, who lives on a road next to Las Ramblas said he saw the vehicle speeding along the boulevard.

“It wasn’t slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds in the middle of the Ramblas,” he told BBC radio.

Ethan Spibey, a charity director on holiday, said he and several others locked themselves in a nearby church.

“All of a sudden it was real kind of chaos… people just started running screaming,” he told Sky. “There was kind of a mini stampede.”

Spain had until now been spared the kind of extremist violence that has rocked nearby France, Belgium and Germany.

But it was hit by what is still Europe’s deadliest jihadist attack in March 2004, when bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists.

Police said today that one of the arrested suspects was a Spaniard born in Melilla, a Spanish territory on Morocco’s north coast, and the other a Moroccan named as Driss Oukabir.