MADRID- A manhunt is under way for the driver of a van that mowed through crowds of tourists on Barcelona’s most famous avenue on Thursday (Aug 17), killing at least 13 people in an attack that was claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Authorities said the death toll could rise, with more than 100 people injured, some seriously.
Police said they arrested two men, a Moroccan and a man from Spain’s north African enclave of Melilla, though neither was the driver. Witnesses said the driver fled on foot.
Hours later in Cambrils, a city 120 kilometres south of Barcelona, police said they shot dead “four suspected terrorists” and left another injured in a “possible terrorist attack.” The incident in Cambrils took place in the early hours of Friday, but police gave no further details, nor did they mention whether the shooting was linked to the Barcelona attack.
Also on Thursday, hours beforehand, a person was killed in an explosion in a house about 100km south-west of Barcelona, in an incident linked to the attack, police added.
It was still not clear how many attackers had been involved. In another incident, police shot dead a man who had driven a car into a police checkpoint in Barcelona, though they had no evidence that this, too, was connected with the van attack.
Witnesses said the white van zigzagged at high speed down Las Ramblas, a busy avenue thronged with tourists, knocking down pedestrians and leaving bodies strewn across the ground.
ISIS’ Amaq news agency said: “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” – a reference to a US-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.
The claim could not immediately be verified.
If the involvement of Islamist militants is confirmed, it would be the latest in a string of attacks in the past 13 months in which they have used vehicles to bring carnage to the streets of European cities.
That modus operandi – crude, deadly and very hard to prevent – has killed well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm. – Agency