Van ploughs into crowd in Barcelona

A van hit crowds in the heart of Barcelona on Thursday killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 80 in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
The aftermath after the van crashed into pedestrians in the popular tourist area of Las Ramblas in Barcelona yesterday. At least one person died in the incident, which Barcelona police said was a terrorist attack. Police officers attending to one of
The aftermath after the van crashed into pedestrians in the popular tourist area of Las Ramblas in Barcelona yesterday. At least one person died in the incident, which Barcelona police said was a terrorist attack. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The aftermath after the van crashed into pedestrians in the popular tourist area of Las Ramblas in Barcelona yesterday. At least one person died in the incident, which Barcelona police said was a terrorist attack. Police officers attending to one of
Police officers attending to one of several people who were injured in the attack in Barcelona yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BARCELONA • A van ploughed into a crowd in a terrorist attack yesterday, at a popular tourist area in the city centre of Barcelona, leaving at least one person dead and more than 30 others injured.

The driver was said to have fled the scene on foot, Reuters reported.

The incident happened near the busy tourist area of Las Ramblas, which has been sealed off, said a Catalan police spokesman.

Barcelona police said the incident in the vicinity of Plaça de Catalunya is a "terrorist attack".

Meanwhile, reports say one or two armed men have entrenched themselves in a bar, but it was not immediately clear if this incident was related to the van attack.

"There was a loud noise and everybody ran for cover. There were a lot of people, lots of families; this is one of the most visited sites in Barcelona," said Mr Marc Esparcia, who was speaking to the BBC while hiding inside a Starbucks cafe after the incident.

 

"I think several people were hit. It was horrible, there was panic. Terrible," said the 20-year-old student.

Mr Aamer Anwar, a civil rights lawyer and rector of Glasgow University, was walking down the crowded Las Ramblas when the attack unfolded.

He described a "crashing noise" before people in the "whole street just started to run".

"I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids," he told Sky News. "Police were very, very quickly there, police officers with guns, batons, everywhere. Then the whole street started getting pushed back."

Videos posted on social media showed at least four people sprawled on the sidewalk, some apparently not moving. Hats, handbags and other items were strewn nearby, according to the Washington Post.

TVE cited a witness saying the van rammed into people at 80kmh, zigzagging into the crowds.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was in contact with the authorities and the priority is to attend to the injured.

The incident took place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, which is one of Europe's top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year.

While full details of the incident were not immediately available, since July last year, vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of attacks across Europe.

In July last year, a Tunisian-born French resident drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds.

The deadliest recent attack in Spain was in March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'Van ploughs into crowd in Barcelona'. Print Edition | Subscribe