Suspected driver had suicide belt on when killed

Relatives of the men suspected to be behind the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks gathering with other Muslims in the main square of Ripoll, a town close to the French border, last Saturday. Younes Abouyaaqoub's mother Hannou Ghanimi had appealed on the week
Relatives of the men suspected to be behind the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks gathering with other Muslims in the main square of Ripoll, a town close to the French border, last Saturday. Younes Abouyaaqoub's mother Hannou Ghanimi had appealed on the weekend for her son to give himself up, saying she would rather see him in prison than end up dead.PHOTO: NYTIMES
Younes Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 suspects still at large.
Younes Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 suspects still at large.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Spanish police have shot and killed man suspected to be driver in Barcelona attack

BARCELONA • Spanish police yesterday killed Younes Abouyaaqoub, the alleged fugitive driver of a van that mowed down crowds in Barcelona.

"We confirm that the person shot down in the incident in Subirats is Younes Abouyaaqoub," police tweeted.

Police in Catalonia confirmed that a man wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt had been killed in Subirats, some 60km away from Barcelona. They said a bomb squad was using a robot to approach the man's body.

Abouyaaqoub, 22, is suspected of ploughing a van through throngs of tourists and locals last Thursday on the busy Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona, killing 13 people. Spain had asked the rest of Europe to join the hunt for Abouyaaqoub as police said yesterday that he had also hijacked a car and killed its occupant during his escape.

After driving at high speed into crowds, the suspected Islamist militant fled on foot and then hijacked the car as it was being parked, stabbing the driver to death, police said.

Morocco-born Abouyaaqoub then drove the hijacked car through a police checkpoint, police said.

It was later found abandoned, with the man's body inside. Police said he may have crossed the border into France.

Younes Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 suspects still at large.
Younes Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 suspects still at large. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Abouyaaqoub was the only one of 12 suspects who was still at large. His mother Hannou Ghanimi appealed at the weekend for her son to give himself up, saying she would rather see him in prison than end up dead.

Four people have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks: three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain's North African enclave of Melilla.

They will be taken to the high court in Madrid, which has jurisdiction over terrorism matters. The other suspects were killed by police or in a blast a day before the attack.

Abouyaaqoub lived in Ripoll, a town close to the French border.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack as well as a separate deadly attack hours later in the coastal resort town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.

In Cambrils, a car crashed into passers-by, and its occupants got out and tried to stab people. Five suspects were shot dead, while a Spanish woman died in the attack.

Catalonian police also said investigators have solid evidence that an imam who is believed to have radicalised several suspects was killed in an explosion in a house in Alcanar last Wednesday. The house was believed to be the suspects' bomb-making factory, where police found 120 gas canisters.

Regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero told reporters that traces of triacetone triperoxide - a home- made explosive that is an ISIS hallmark - had also been found.

Reports said the imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, in his 40s, might have been radicalised in prison by one of the bombers involved in the 2004 Madrid train blasts.

He was sentenced to two years' jail in 2012 for smuggling hashish between Morocco and Spain, Britain's Telegraph reported. It said Es Satty was jailed alongside Rachid Aglif, who was serving 18 years for his role in the 2004 bombings, in which 192 people died.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2017, with the headline 'Suspected driver had suicide belt on when killed'. Print Edition | Subscribe