Spain seaside city attacks: What we know so far

Spanish policemen walk in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd on Aug 17, 2017.
Spanish policemen walk in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd on Aug 17, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) - At least 14 people have been killed and more than 100 others injured after drivers slammed into pedestrians in two quick-succession, separate attacks on Barcelona's most popular street and in another busy Spanish seaside city.

What happened?

At around 4.50 pm (10.50pm Singapore time) on Thursday (Aug 17), a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the famous Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona.

The promenade in the heart of the city centre is one of Barcelona's busiest streets, normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos and panic, with bodies strewn along the boulevard as others fled for their lives.

"When it happened I ran out and saw the damage," local shop worker Xavi Perez told AFP.

"There were bodies on the ground with people crowding round them. People were crying. There were lots of foreigners." 

The driver fled on foot. Police have since said he may be among several suspects killed in the hours since the mayhem started.

Second attack

Some eight hours after the Barcelona attack, an Audi A3 car hit pedestrians in the resort town of Cambrils, 120km south of Barcelona. Six civilians and a police officer were injured; one of the civilians, a woman, later died.

 
 
 

The five occupants of the car were killed by police.

When asked if the Barcelona driver may have been among those killed, Josep Lluis Trapero of Catalonia’s police said “the investigation points in that direction", while cautioning that there was no “concrete proof”.

Who are the victims?

Emergency services said at least 14 people had died and around 100 more were injured in the two attacks.

There were some three dozen nationalities among the dead and injured who came from countries as varied as France, Pakistan, 
Spain, the Netherlands, China, Venezuela, Mauritania, Australia, Britain and the United States.

At least one American was killed in the attacks, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.  

Rome said two Italian nationals were killed including a man who died in front of his wife and young children, and Belgium said one of its citizens was among the fatalities.

A 74-year-old Portuguese woman was also among the dead, the government said, while a man called Tony Cadman launched a Facebook appeal for his seven-year-old grandson who is missing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said one Canadian was killed, while Argentina’s foreign ministry said a 40-year-old woman, Silvina Alejandra Pereyra, who had dual Spanish-Argentinian citizenship, was among the dead.

So far France appears to have the most citizens among the injured, reporting 28 wounded with eight gravely hurt.

Who is behind it?

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) propaganda agency Amaq claimed that “soldiers” from the militant group carried out the Barcelona attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors extremists' websites.

“The executors of the Barcelona attack were soldiers of the Islamic State,” Amaq said, quoted by SITE.

Catalonia’s regional police identified three of the suspects who were killed as Moroccan nationals.  They were Moussa Oukabir, 17, Said Aallaa, 18, and Mohamed Hychami, 24.  

Police said they suspect 12 people of involvement in the attacks: the five who were killed in Cambrils, four who were arrested and three who have been identified but whose whereabouts have not been confirmed.

Officials suspect that two of these three may have died in a blast at a house in the town of Alcanar, about 200km south of Barcelona, on Wednesday evening.  Initially treated as a random gas blast, police later linked it to the Barcelona assault, believing occupants of the house were preparing an explosive device inside.

The explosion in Alcanar destroyed “the material they needed to commit attacks of an even bigger scope”, Catalonia police said.

Previous attacks in Spain

Spain was hit by what is still Europe’s deadliest terror attack in March 2004, when bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists.

In July 2015, a hooded attacker opened fire outside a hotel in downtown Barcelona near Las Ramblas boulevard, leaving two people injured, police said.  No suspected motive for that attack was given.