Barcelona attack: Government says terror cell dismantled

Image source, AFP/Getty
Image caption, Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, has emerged as the main suspect in the Barcelona attack

The jihadist cell behind the attack in Barcelona that left 13 people dead on Thursday has been fully dismantled, the Spanish government says.

Officials reached this conclusion "after examining the people who died, the people who were arrested and carrying out identity checks", Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said.

But the regional Catalan government said there could be further arrests, as a key suspect is still being sought.

A special Mass is due to be held later.

The service in memory of the victims will take place at Barcelona's famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral, and will be attended by King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain.

Thursday's attack in the Catalan capital saw a van driven at high speed along Las Ramblas where it smashed into dozens of people walking along the pedestrianised avenue popular with tourists and residents alike.

Spanish police are searching for Moroccan-born Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, who they suspect may be the driver who escaped the scene on foot.

Only hours later, early on Friday, there was a second van attack in Cambrils, west of Barcelona.

Media caption, WATCH: What is the mood in Barcelona?

A woman was killed and police shot dead five suspected attackers, including Moussa Oukabir, 17, originally reported as the key suspect in the Barcelona attack.

Oukabir is suspected of using his brother's documents to rent the van used in Barcelona and another found hours later in the town of Vic, north of Barcelona, that was intended as a getaway vehicle.

The terror cell is reported to comprise 12 men. The Catalan Interior Minster, Joaquim Forn, stressed that the police operation could not be considered over until all those suspected of being part of the cell were in custody.

Media caption, CCTV footage shows the van speeding down Las Ramblas

Police say the suspects had been planning more sophisticated attacks, but an explosion on Wednesday at a house in the town of Alcanar deprived them of bomb material, so they carried out simpler attacks using vehicles.

Police have found the remains of at least three people at the Alcanar house, El Pais newspaper reports.

Abouyaaqoub lived in the town of Ripoll to the north of Barcelona. Three people have been arrested in Ripoll, and one in Alcanar.

In Ripoll the apartment of an imam was raided on Saturday.

Another van, a Renault Kangoo, is also being sought, amid reports it may have been driven across the border into France.

Security is being stepped up, though the security alert level is staying unchanged as there is no information suggesting an imminent attack.

Who are the suspects?

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it had carried out the Las Ramblas attack, though it is not clear whether any of the attackers were directly connected to the group or simply inspired by it.

Image source, AFP
Image caption, (L-R) Moussa Oukabir, Said Aallaa, Mohamed Hychami and Younes Abouyaaqoub
  • Killed: Five suspected jihadists shot dead by police in Cambrils - Moussa Oukabir, 17; Said Aallaa, 18; Mohamed Hychami, 24; two unnamed men
  • Arrested: Three in the town of Ripoll - Driss Oukabir, 28, the brother of Moussa, who turned himself in saying his documents had been stolen to rent vehicles used in the Las Ramblas attack; Sahal el-Karib, 34; Mohammed Aallaa, 27; one unnamed person in Alcanar, following the house explosion there on Wednesday
  • Hunted: Younes Abouyaaqoub, now suspected to be the driver in the Las Ramblas attack

What do we know about the victims?

Image source, Vancouver Police
Image caption, Ian Moore Wilson, pictured with his wife Valerie, is the latest named fatality from Las Ramblas

Five of the dead have been named so far:

  • American Jared Tucker, 43
  • Canadian Ian Moore Wilson
  • Spaniard Francisco López Rodríguez, in his 60s
  • Italian Bruno Gulotta, 35
  • Italian Luca Russo, 25

A 74-year-old Portuguese woman, a 40-year-old woman with dual Argentine and Spanish citizenship, and a Belgian were also killed, their governments said.

Media caption, What was it like to be caught up in the Barcelona attack?

The whereabouts of seven-year-old Julian Cadman, a dual British-Australian national apparently separated from his injured mother during the attack, remains unclear. He was widely reported to be missing.

However, the Catalan police, responding to inquiries, tweeted that they had neither been looking for nor found any missing child. The victims and the injured had all been located, they said.

Catalan emergency services gave a new breakdown of the injured on Saturday:

  • Barcelona attack: 12 critical, 24 serious, 11 less serious, 3 minor
  • Cambrils attack: 1 serious, 2 less serious, 1 minor

The mood in Barcelona: Patrick Jackson, BBC News, Las Ramblas

Image caption, The Mellouli family from Tunisia on holiday in Barcelona

Pegged on strings between the lamp-posts and plane trees on the packed boulevard, more and more sheets of white paper flap in the breeze.

Imprinted with a red love heart, each contains a message left by a stroller, reflecting on the attack. Messages of love for Barcelona abound but there is anger too. "Now we need to take action," reads one. "I don't want to run any more. Let's not run away from them, let's run after them."

The Mellouli family's message, in French, says: "Sousse (Tunisia) supports Barcelona against terrorism". Sousse, the holiday resort where a gunman killed 38 people just over two years ago, now shares sorrow with Barcelona.

"We are very upset by what happened here," says the father, Slah, who is here on holiday with his family. "We are all against terrorism. Islam is against terrorism too. What happened here is not Islam. Nobody can be safe from terrorism now and we must unite against it."

Timeline of events

  • Alcanar, Wednesday evening: An explosion rips through a house in the small town, 200km south of Barcelona. One person dies. Police chief Josep Lluis Trapero said it appeared the residents at the house had been "preparing an explosive device". A Catalan government official says a cell may have intended to use gas canisters in the Las Ramblas attack
  • Barcelona, Thursday 16:50 (14:50 GMT): A white Fiat van drives down Las Ramblas in central Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring scores. The driver flees on foot
  • Vic, Thursday 18:30: Police find a second van, thought to be a getaway vehicle, in the town, 80km north of Barcelona
  • Sant Just Desvern, Thursday 19:30: A car is driven towards officers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona. They open fire. A man is later found dead in the passenger seat of the car with stab wounds. The dead man is not linked to the Las Ramblas attack, officials say, but investigations are ongoing. One theory is that the car was stolen and the man was killed by the carjacker, who is still at large
  • Cambrils, Friday 01:00: A second vehicle attack takes place in the resort south of Barcelona. Police kill five terrorist suspects said to be linked to the Las Ramblas attack. They include Moussa Oukabir, 17, initially thought to be the Las Ramblas attacker. Police later say another man, Younes Abouyaaqoub, is being hunted.

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