13 dead, 50 injured’ in terror attack in the heart of Barcelona, Spain, updates
August 17, 2017
A white van suspected of ploughing into pedestrians in Barcelona this afternoon
At least 13 people were killed and 50 were injured after a van rammed through crowds of people in the heart of Barcelona Thursday in an apparent terror attack.
Eyewitnesses reported panic and chaos as the van plowed through crowds in the renowned Las Ramblas avenue, which was teeming at the time with locals and tourists.
The number of casualties is “bound to rise” as some people are in a critical condition, Joaquim Forn, the Catalan interior minister, told a news conference.
Catalan police said that 10 people were seriously injured. They were treating the incident as a terror attack and have sealed off the area.
City officials ordered all public events to be canceled, while emergency services requested the closure of metro and train stations in the area.
Reports of the attack first emerged on social media at about 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET). About two hours later, police confirmed that Spain had suffered a deadly attack.
It was the latest in a series of attacks in Europe in which vehicles have been used to mow down pedestrians in public spaces.
Catalan police said they were continuing to hunt for the perpetrators and that the force had activated its terror response protocols. Unconfirmed reports suggested the suspects may have been attempting to reach a getaway vehicle.
Local Spanish media earlier reported that two armed men had entered a restaurant.
As the incident unfolded, police told everyone in the vicinity of Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas to remain indoors until told it was safe to go outside. Footage posted to social media by witnesses showed chaotic scenes with people lying in the street, apparently dead or injured.
Witness reports gunshots
One witness told local media the situation was “very tense” and that all surrounding shops were being evacuated. The witness said at least eight ambulances were at the scene. Emergency services said the area had been cordoned off and all public transportation stopped.
Another witness who was hiding in a shop nearby heard gunshots, according to state-run broadcaster TVE24. Another witness said he saw a van driving “around 80 kilometers” per hour, or 50 mph. He said “there is no doubt it was intentional,” according to TVE24.
Tourist Susan McClean told CNN that she saw a “tidal wave” of people running away from Las Ramblas in the aftermath of the incident.
She ducked into a nearby shop and the shutters were pulled down while police sped toward the scene.
“There was clearly a lot of distress,” she told CNN.
McClean said she returned to her hotel just a street away after leaving the shop.
Witness: ‘Lot of distress’
The Catalonian regional government is convening an emergency meeting to discuss the incident, its vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, said in a tweet.
The Catalan emergency services urged people via Twitter to avoid going out or undertaking any other type of movement that is not “strictly necessary” to facilitate police operations.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted: “In contact with all administrations. Priority: tend to the injured in Las Ramblas and facilitate the work of security forces.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted his condemnation of the attack. “My thoughts are with all those affected. We stand united in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also tweeted his support, saying: “London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.”
The US Consulate in Barcelona posted on Twitter: “We are aware of a reported incident at Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Please avoid the area and monitor local police @mossos for updates.”
Las Ramblas is a predominantly pedestrianized street popular among tourists in Barcelona. Extending for about three-quarters of a mile through the center of the city, the tree-lined street is especially crowded in the summer, the height of tourist season.
The promenade passes by kiosks, flower sellers, pavement cafes and bars. It includes a number of the city’s most popular sites.
Barcelona is consistently ranked one of the world’s most visited cities.
According to police audio recordings, the driver of the van was 1m 70cm tall, dressed in a white top with blue stripes.
Police found a Spanish passport inside the van.
One of the vans used to carry out the murderous rampage at the heart of the city was rented by Driss Oukabir, said to have been a convicted criminal.
Oukabir rented the white Mercedes van in the town of Santa Perpetua de la Mogada, 16 miles north of Barcelona, according to Spanish police.
He was known to police, El Pais reported, and spent time in prison in Figueres, Catalonia, being released in 2012.
Anti-terrorism sources told the newspaper that Oubakir arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on August 13.
Police have been identifying his associates in a bid to work out who was behind the terror attack.
The same sources said Oubakir was known to have spent time in Madrid this year and police were attempting to work out where he stayed and who he met there.
It was not clear if Oukabir was driving the vehicle or in any way involved in the attack.
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