SHARE
COPY LINK

TERRORISM

Driver targets pedestrians in Barcelona ‘terrorist attack’

A driver deliberately ploughed a van into pedestrians on one of Spain's busiest streets on Thursday, wounding a number of people in what police said was a "terrorist attack".

Driver targets pedestrians in Barcelona 'terrorist attack'
A policemen stands at a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into pedestrians in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

“Huge collision on Las Ramblas in Barcelona by an individual driving a van, many injuries,” a statement from Catalan police said.

The area around the incident was cordoned off, with several ambulances and police vehicles on the scene, an AFP correspondent said.

FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES HERE

Police in Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city, told crowds fleeing the scene by megaphone that they were dealing with a “terrorist attack”.

The famous Las Ramblas boulevard is one of Barcelona's busiest streets, normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

Spain has so far been spared the kind of extremist violence that has occurred in nearby France, Belgium and Germany.

Deadliest jihadist attack

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

Vehicles have been used in several terror attacks in Europe in recent years, including a jihadist massacre that claimed 86 lives in the French Riviera city of Nice.

That onslaught 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.

Spain has emerged as a potential target for jihadists, with extremist websites mentioning it for historical reasons, since much of its territory was once under Muslim rule.

Generally, authorities in Spain — the world's third largest tourism destination — remain discreet on the terror threat.

But they publicise every arrest of alleged jihadists, most of them detained for propaganda, recruitment for extremist groups or “glorifying terrorism.”

According to the interior ministry, more than 180 “jihadist terrorists” have been arrested since June 2015 when Spain raised the terror alert level to four out of a maximum of five, in domestic and foreign operations.

ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

SHOW COMMENTS