Police officials have said the attacks in Catalonia were being prepared “for some time” from Alcanar, situated in South of Barcelona. The announcement comes after they made a fourth arrest in relation to the attacks, Reuters reported. No details were divulged regarding the same. The death toll in Barcelona terror attack rose to 14 on Friday as a woman succumbed to her injuries in Cambrils. On Thursday evening, a van rammed into a crowd of people in one of Barcelona’s most popular tourist spots, Las Ramblas, injuring over a 100. The Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, which is being touted as one of the deadliest terror attacks Spain has witnessed in the past decade. The dead and injured are from over 34 countries, including France, Germany, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Spain began three days of mourning as hundreds of people gathered in Placa de Catalunya, city’s central square, on Friday to observe a minute of silence in the memory of the victims. Spain’s King Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and President of the Generalitat of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont were also present. People also laid down cards, candles and flowers at the site of the attack. Defiant crowds later on chanted, “I am not afraid” in Catalan, Reuters reported.
Hours after the attack was carried out at around 5.30 pm (local time) on Thursday, Catalan police gunned down the five suspects in an extensive anti-terror operation foiling another assault bid. The alleged terrorists were killed in an encounter in Cambrils in an operation which wounded five civilians and a police officer. According to Reuters, the attackers ran them over in a car before being killed. The police claimed that the attackers were carrying bomb belts, which were later detonated by the bomb squad, adding that the Cambrils incident was linked to the van attack in Barcelona. Police also linked the van attack to an explosion which killed one, injured seven and destroyed a house in Alcanar, which is about 200km from Barcelona.
The attacks have been condemned by many leaders across the world, including French President Emmanuel Macron. Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called it a “jihadist attack” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “terrorism can cause us bitter and deeply sad hours, as has happened in Spain, but it won’t defeat us.” She said the Foreign Ministry is still working with Spanish authorities to say whether any Germans were among the victims. In a message to the cardinal of Barcelona, Pope Francis said the attack was “an act of blind violence that is a grave offence to the Creator”. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the attack showed the European Union’s system of migrant relocation was wrong. “It is dangerous. Europe should wake up,” he said. “We are dealing here with a clash of civilisations.”
On Thursday, a white van plowed into people, pulling back and forth in order to hurt as many as possible. According to reports by The Associated Press, people walk down a wide, pedestrianized path in the middle of the street, while the vehicles can travel on either side. Witnesses informed media that the van was also moving from side to side while crashing into people as the historic city was full of tourists.
In a statement posted on the Amaq news agency, Islamic State’s media arm, the group took responsibility for the attacks. “The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states.” The claims are yet to be verified.
As a part of the US-led coalition fighting against the terror outfit, Spain has sent several hundred soldiers to Iraq to train the local forces in battling against the extremist organisation. The soldiers are themselves not involved in ground operations, Reuters reported.
Social media was full of videos showing people running for cover and being knocked over by the van. Visuals of bodies lying on the floor and people attending to the injured also emerged as Catalan police soon cordoned off the street and shut down the stores.
“People were shouting and we heard a bang and someone cried that it was a gunshot … Me and my family ran into the restaurant along with around 40 other people. At first people were going crazy in there, lots of people crying, including a little girl around three years old,” a British tourist told Reuters.