BARCELONA (AFP) - As Spanish police on Friday (Aug 18) hunted for the driver who rammed a van into pedestrians on an avenue crowded with tourists in Barcelona, world leaders have condemned the attack, expressing outrage and solidarity with the victims.
The Spanish royal family issued an unusually strongly worded statement: "They are assassins, criminals who won't terrorise us. All of Spain is Barcelona."
FC Barcelona said it was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy, and the football team's talismanic striker Lionel Messi said separately that people must reject "any act of violence". "There are many more of us who want to live in a world in peace, without hate and where respect and tolerance are the basis of coexistence," he added.
President Donald Trump tweeted: "The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!"
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: "Terrorists around the world should know - the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice." .
Germany stands united with Spain in its determination not to allow terrorist attacks stop people living their lives, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.
“These murderous attacks have once again shown us the full contempt for mankind involved in Islamist terrorism,” Merkel said. “We’re united in our resolve not to allow these murders ... stop us living our way of life,” she said, adding that Barcelona in particular stood for tolerance, beauty and peaceful encounters between people of different cultures.
“Terrorism may inflict bitter and terribly sad hours upon us, as has happened in Spain, but it can never defeat us,” she said.
President Vladimir Putin called for the world to unite in an "uncompromising battle against the forces of terror".
"We decisively condemn this cruel and cynical crime against civilians," Mr Putin wrote in a telegram of condolences to Spanish King Felipe VI.
A spokesman said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "condemns today's terrorist attack on Barcelona" and "hopes that those responsible for this heinous violence will be swiftly brought to justice".
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: "I send my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, as well as to Prime Minister (Mariano) Rajoy and the people of Spain. My thoughts are with the people of Barcelona."
President Emmanuel Macron voiced "France's solidarity" with Spanish citizens, following what he called "a tragic attack".
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said: "Parisians are at your side. Barcelona and Paris are cities that share love and tolerance. Our values are much stronger than this heinous and cowardly act of terrorism."
British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: "My thoughts are with the victims of today's terrible attack in Barcelona... and the emergency services responding to this ongoing incident. The UK stands with Spain against terror."
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the attack "barbaric", adding: "London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism."
It was a "cowardly attack against innocent people", Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement on his Facebook page, calling it a "black day at a place where many people around the world gathered".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the “civilised world” to unite against terrorism. “Israel firmly condemns the terrorist attack in Barcelona,” he said. “This evening we have seen once again that terrorism strikes everywhere. The civilised world must unite to defeat it.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey strongly condemned the "heinous terrorist attack".
Pope Francis's spokesman said in a statement: "The Pope prays for the victims of this attack and wishes to express his closeness to all the Spanish people, especially the wounded and families of the victims."
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, a star with Spanish premier club Real Madrid, said he was "dismayed" by the attack and voiced "support and solidarity with the families and friends of the victims".
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday: "Canada condemns today's terror attack in Barcelona - our hearts, sympathies and support are with the victims and their families." He added in a statement: "Canada will continue working with the international community to fight terrorism and build a world where we can all feel safe and secure."
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent a letter of condolences to the King of Spain and the Spanish prime minister. “China firmly opposes all forms of terrorism, supports efforts to combat terrorism and supports peace and stability, and would like to cooperate with Spain to enhance counter-terrorism operations,” the president said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement: "The Philippines condemns in the strongest terms this disturbing act of terror perpetrated by extremists against innocent men, women and children in Barcelona."
He added: "We stand in solidarity with the people of Catalonia and all of Spain and the rest of the world as we fight this common scourge."
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted after the attack: "Deepest condolences to the loved ones of innocent victims who lost their lives and were affected by the despicable attack in Barcelona."
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said: “This terrible attack reinforces our conviction that the most important task in the coming period will be the restoration of security for Europe and European people.” .
Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen said: “Europe and the whole world are united against terrorism.” .
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “The Australian people condemn the terrorist attack, the Islamist terrorist attack in Barcelona overnight.” “Our love, our prayers are with the victims and their families... we stand in absolute, resolute solidarity with the people of Spain in the fight against Islamist terrorism,” he told reporters.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English tweeted: “My thoughts are with the families of those killed following the horrendous attack in Barcelona.”