Spain's iconic Las Ramblas tourist hotspot hit by terror attack

Barcelona terror attack at iconic Las Ramblas tourist hotspot in Spain

Policemen accompany people outside a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into
 the crowd, killing at least 12 people and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona

SPAIN is in shock after being hit by two terror attacks in less than 24 hours, which struck at the heart of Barcelona and the nearby coastal town of Cambrils.
In the latest incident, suspects wearing suicide belts were shot dead by police in Cambrils after ramming into a crowd.

                                       Video by CNN


Police were pursuing a suspicious van that then drove into a pedestrian area on an esplanade, running down six people before the vehicle overturned. A police shootout then followed, with five attackers killed.
Firearms were removed from the scene and belts they were carrying are being treated as potential explosive devices.



Reports suggest that the group of terrorists in Cambrils tried to re-create an earlier terror attack in Barcelona, where at least 13 people died after a van ploughed into crowds on the famed Las Ramblas tourist street.

The attack, which came mid afternoon Spanish time, also left at least 100 people injured them, Catalan police confirmed. Fifteen of them are in a critical condition.

A police officer gestures as he blocks a street in Barcelona, Spain
Local media is reporting Spanish police are following up from both incidents with a series of raids in the region surrounding the district centre of Terragona.

Police earlier warned local residents and tourists at nearby hotels to stay indoors: “If you’re now in Cambrils, avoid going out. Stay home, stay safe,” the region’s civil defence agency said in a tweet.
It has since tweeted that the situation “is under control”, though it advised people in the area to remain “cautious”.

Two men - a Spanish national and a Moroccan - have been arrested in relation to the attack but police said the driver of the van was still on the run.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the terror attack, according to the Amaq news agency.

TERROR IN BARCELONA

After the van attack in Barcelona, authorities said a Belgian was among the dead and a Greek woman was among the injured.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it was checking reports that German citizens were among the victims.

At least one Australian from NSW is reported to be in a serious condition.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said two Victorians were waiting to seek medical attention for minor injuries, and the total number killed in the incident was 16. This death toll is yet to be confirmed.
There were scenes of panic on the famous thoroughfare, with bodies strewn in the street.


Twitter images of what is believed to be the white van used
in the terror attack at Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
Eyewitnesses said the van was travelling at speeds of up to 80km/h when it mounted the footpath, and then zigzagged down the Las Ramblas promenade for up to 500m before it came to rest with a badly injured person crumpled near the front wheels.

Terrified tourists were seen fleeing as the van smashed its way through street furniture and pedestrians, in an attack chillingly similar to those in London this year, and in Nice in southern France a year ago.

Two men - a Spanish national and a Moroccan - have been arrested in relation to the attack but police said the driver of the van was still on the run.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the terror attack, according to the Amaq news agency

TERROR ARRESTS

Following the attack, Spanish police distributed an image of Driss Oukabir, whose ID had been found in a second rental van believed to be the getaway vehicle.
The 28-year-old Catalan resident of Moroccan origin later handed himself in to police in Ripoll, about 100km from Barcelona.
Oukabir claimed that his younger brother, Moussa Oukabir, 18, had stolen his documents.
The second person arrested was a Spanish national born in the Spanish territory of Melilla in northern Morocco.
DRISS OUKABIR: He is believed to have rented the
van used in the Barcelona attack
“It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible,” Josep Lluis Trapero, a senior police official, told a news conference this morning.

The arrests took place in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll, and in Alcanar, some 200 kilometres south of Barcelona, the site of a gas explosion at a house earlier in the week which was initially thought to be drug related.

Police now suspect the explosion is linked to the van attack.
Trapero said the explosion left at least one person dead, and police suspected those in the house were “preparing an explosive device.”
“It seems there was an accumulation of gas that generated the explosion,” he said, without giving further details.
The town of Cambrils, the site of an ongoing police operation, on the coastal road between Barcelona and Alcanar.

The area around Barcelona’s Las Ramblas was sealed off for blocks in each direction, and tourists and locals were desperately trying to find loved ones, as the mobile phone network in the area struggled to cope.

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency published a statement saying: “The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states” - a reference to a US-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.
The claim could not immediately be verified.

ONGOING MANHUNT

It was still not clear how many attackers were involved. In another incident, police shot dead a man who had driven a car into a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona.
Catalan police said at least two officers were run over when a Ford Focus broke through a checkpoint.
Police say the officers suffered only minor injuries and didn’t need to be hospitalised.


The bomb squad attended the scene and there were conflicting reports about whether a second vehicle was used as a getaway.
Police searched shops and nearby streets, and set up roadblocks around the city.
While gunshots were reported in a nearby department store, police said there had been no exchange of fire.

AUSSIES CAUGHT UP IN TERROR

On Friday morning, Ms Bishop said there could be more Australians injured in the terror attacks.
“I ask all Australians in the vicinity to contact local authorities to let them know of their whereabouts and to contact their loved ones back in Australia,” she said.
Australian consular staff are on the way from Madrid to ensure enough staff were on the ground to provide assistance.

“Our honorary consul stationed in Barcelona for a number of years is visiting hospitals and keeping in close contact with the authorities,” Ms Bishop said.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the government condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and said “Australia stands in solidarity with Spain in the wake of this appalling attack.

“Australians who concerns for the welfare of family and friends in the region, should attempt to contact them directly. If you’re unable to contact them and still hold concerns for their welfare, you should call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 24-hour consulate emergency centre on 1300 555 135.”

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS

Australian tourist Bianca Shaw from Canberra only learned of the attack by turning on the TV in her hotel room.
“I was with my partner, we had just left Las Ramblas to head back to our hotel for a nap before we headed back out for dinner and drinks,” she told 3AW.
“We were actually woken up by some messages from friends that we were travelling with previously before we got here.
“They were asking are you okay and what’s going on? Because we’re actually staying a couple of metres away from the Las Ramblas section. We turned on the TV and it was absolutely filled with all the news about the terror attack and we just found out from there.”
Ms Shaw ventured outside with her partner, but stayed close to the hotel.

“We went outside probably about an hour after we heard about everything. We had been watching the news for a while and they had been jumping from one person dead and then all of a sudden it was 13 people dead.
“We didn’t really know what was going on and we went outside and there were people everywhere. There were police cars actually quite close to where we were so we thought it might be best to actually stay in our hotel. The staff were recommending that nobody leave the hotel.”
Ms Shaw said the mood was sombre.

Aussie Adam James and his wife were caught up in the Barcelona incident while walking back to their apartment.
“My wife and I were coming back from the Picasso museum district as we were coming back to our street, we were used to a lot of people walking past us, at the end of the street,” Mr James said.
“We asked what had happened and they explained that a number of foreign nationals and locals had been hit by a car, and literally within seconds of saying that a number of shots were fired and we turned and ran.
“As we turned and ran unfortunately my wife was caught up and was pushed over and suffered some minor injuries. We ran into a local cafe we were help up there for about four-and-a-half hours.
“She’s a bit bunged up mate, we were quite fortunate that the cafe have some first aid and she was attended to appropriately.”
An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain
Gil Van Der Venne from Melbourne, who was staying at Hotel Baguef, said it was an extremely distressing.
“It’s a really scary situation when you’re walking back from your day of sightseeing and you’re deciding whether to have a drink out in Las Ramblas or walk back to your hotel room and we chose the latter,” he told 3AW.

“Fifteen minutes later, you’re looking over the balcony from the top of the roof top bar while you’re having a drink and there it is, all happening in front of you.
“You hear the screaming, the mayhem, you look over the top and there are at least five bodies that I saw and unfortunately, I believe three of them, well they’re still there now in body bags so you can imagine obviously they’ve passed.
“It’s very, very scary. The place is still in lockdown.”

Australian Susan McLean, who is in Barcelona, spoke with Channel Seven’s Sunrise by phone this morning.
“It was too close for comfort,” she said.
“I was in a shop doing some shopping and my husband, being a good husband, was standing out the front. I went out to get him because I want to show him something as I went out, there was a tidal wave of people running from Las Ramblas around the corner down our street.
“They were panicked, they were running for their lives. They were screaming, they were crying hysterically. Immediately we knew something terrible had happened.”

Mrs McLean said they have been told to stay put.
“It is night time now, it is 11:20 at night. We were ordered to stay inside and we were told after this that they are not wanting people to go into the street.
“The only sounds we’ve been hearing are sirens and a police helicopter, both of which have stopped now. They are still saying we should stay inside even though it believed the two suspects have been arrested.
“What they wouldn’t want is everyone to leave their hotel and see what’s going on.”

‘THE SPANIARDS WILL DEFEAT TERRORISM’

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that they would use “maximum co-ordination to arrest the attackers, reinforce security and attend to all those affected.”

On Twitter he added: “We are united to defeat terrorism. The Government of Catalonia, Barcelona and all the security forces are backed by the Government.”
“The priority is to attend to those affected, detain the killers and restore normalcy. The Spaniards will defeat terrorism.”

In a statement released on Twitter the Spanish royal family said, “They are murderers, nothing more than criminals who are not going to terrorise us. All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will go back to being everyone’s.”

WORLD LEADERS RESPOND

World leaders were quick to condemn the terror attacks.
“Resolute with Spain in the fight to defeat terrorism we condemn the terrorist attack in Barcelona. Our love & prayers are with the victims,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

US President Donald Trump condemned the attack and offered assistance.
“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said “the UK stands with Spain against terror” following the van attack in Barcelona that killed at least 13 people and injured dozens of others.
Ms May condemned the “terrible” tragedy, which mirrored similar vehicle attacks in London this year.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “(It is) with profound sorrow and anguish that I have learnt of the terrorist attack that has struck at the heart of Barcelona this afternoon.”
He added: “This cowardly attack has deliberately targeted those enjoying life and sharing time with family and friends. We will never be cowed by such barbarism.”

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Thursday evening: “All my thoughts and solidarity from France for the victims of the tragic attack in Barcelona. We will remain united and determined.”

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, whose Mediterranean city lost 86 people in a truck attack during a Bastille Day fireworks display a little more than a year ago, announced that a special homage to Barcelona’s victims would be held.

While Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Spanish native whose city has faced multiple Islamic extremist attacks in recent years, expressed her “sadness and indignation.”

The Spanish royal household said on Twitter: “They are murderers, nothing more than criminals who are not going to terrorise us. All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will go back to being everyone’s.”

TERROR IN EUROPE

While Spain has faced domestic terror attacks from the ETA separatist group over the year, it has not had a major Islamist attack since the horrific train bombings in Madrid in 2004 which killed 191 people and injured 1841 more.

Spain has until now been spared the kind of extremist violence that has occurred in nearby France, Belgium and Germany.
Vehicles have been used in several terror attacks in Europe in recent years.

The Nice attack in July last year and other similar attacks were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
In July 2015, a hooded attacker opened fire outside a hotel in downtown Barcelona near Las Ramblas, leaving two people injured, police said.
One person was struck by bullets while the other was hurt as they tried to flee the shooter, who fled the scene.
No suspected motive for the attack was given.





Cred: AP, Reuters & News Corp Australia Network

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