Spain attack toll rises to 15; police say van driver hijacked car to escape

Pictures released by the Spanish police showing suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub, who allegedly drove a van through crowds in Barcelona.
Pictures released by the Spanish police showing suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub, who allegedly drove a van through crowds in Barcelona.PHOTO: AFP/MOSSOS D'ESQUADRA TWITTER ACCOUNT

BARCELONA (REUTERS, AFP) - The man who rammed a car into crowds in Barcelona last Thursday, identified as 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, fled the scene on foot before later stabbing a man to death and taking his car to escape, Catalonia’s regional minister and police said on Monday (Aug 21).

“We are raising the number of victims from 14 to 15 to include the victim in the vehicle found in Sant Just,” regional minister Joaquim Forn told journalists.  

The victim was identified as Pau Perez, a Spaniard from Vilafranca del Penedes, some 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Barcelona.  He was found fatally stabbed in a Ford Focus that had forced a police checkpoint Thursday just after a van ploughed through crowds in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 13 people.  

Police had fired at the car when it forced the checkpoint, injuring an officer, and initially thought the man they found in the car had been killed by the gunfire. An investigation later revealed he had been stabbed.  

On Monday, Forn said the incident was linked to the Barcelona car-ramming attack.  Police believe Perez was stabbed by Younes Abouyaaqoub, the alleged van driver.  He managed to flee the scene of the carnage on foot, and is thought to have killed Perez to grab his car and escape the city.  

He is still on the run and police Europe-wide are hunting for him. 

Spanish police said on Monday that Abouyaaqoub is "dangerous and could be armed".

Police tweeted four pictures of Moroccan national wearing a striped top and with short, dark hair, and asked the public to "share as much (information) as possible".

Thirteen people died in the van rampage on Barcelona's Las Ramblas, while another woman was killed in a separate attack by suspected Islamist militants hours later in the seaside resort in Cambrils.  

Catalan government officials and police told a joint news conference that another incident had unfolding in Barcelona on Monday involving a suspicious backpack on a bus, but police later confirmed it was a false alarm. 

The confirmation came after images taken from CCTV in the EL Pais newspaper show Abouyaaqoub walking through the La Boqueria Market, close to where the van ended up following Thursday’s attacks, minutes after the incident, reported Xinhua news agency.  

He was wearing a striped polo shirt and sunglasses, as he was 24 hours earlier when he was caught by security cameras at his hometown of Ripol, north of Barcelona, where the majority of the 12 terrorists responsible for the attacks came from.  

Abouyaaqoub is thought to have blended into the crowd after the attack, walking through the market and exiting through the back door into an area called “El Raval,” where he travelled to the university area on the other side of Barcelona before hijacking Perez's car, Xinhua said.