Barcelona: Terrorists acted 'out of desperation' after plan to use explosives failed

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Barcelona: Terrorists acted 'out of desperation' after plan to use explosives failed
Crowds at Plaça Catalunya a day after the attack in Barcelona. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Police believe a jihadi cell was planning to stage a 'much bigger' attack on Barcelona using explosives but panicked after accidentally blowing up the house.


  • Police confirm that four people have been arrested in connection with the attacks
  • Five terrorists killed after staging an attack in Cambrils, a resort town 110km south of Barcelona
  • Man killed at roadblock yesterday may have been taken hostage by van driver, who is still on the run
  • Citizens from 34 countries are among the dead and wounded 


17:03 New police raid

Police are raiding another property in Ripoll. the town north of Catalonia where two arrests have already been made.

16: 45 Here's a round of up following the press conference by police chief Josep Lluis Trapero

Suspects in Spain's deadly twin terror attacks were preparing an even bigger assault but were thwarted in their plans and forced to act in a "more rudimentary" way, police said Friday.

Catalonia police spokesman Josep Lluis Trapero added that a driver who mowed down crowds of pedestrians in the first attack in a busy Barcelona street Thursday could be among five suspects later shot dead in a nearby city.   

"They were preparing one or several attacks in Barcelona and an explosion in Alcanar stopped this as they no longer had the material they needed to commit attacks of an even bigger scope," he told reporters.

He was referring to a blast in a house in the town of Alcanar on Wednesday evening. Police believe the explosion, which killed one person and injured seven others, was caused an attempt to make explosive devices.   

Trapero said that after this, the suspects -- who formed part of a cell -- allegedly went on to commit "more rudimentary" attacks.   

These involved vehicles ploughing into pedestrians in Barcelona and then again in the seaside city of Cambrils some eight hours later.   

At least 14 people were killed and some 100 others were injured.   

Police shot dead five "alleged terrorists" in Cambrils, but not before they had injured seven people, one of whom later died of her wounds.   

"The alleged terrorists in Cambrils had an axe and knives in the car as well as fake explosive belts stuck to their bodies," police in Catalonia tweeted.

Asked if the van driver in the first attack was among the five killed, Trapero said "the investigation points in this direction". But while there were "clues" that this was the case there was no "concrete proof", he added.    

Three out of the five suspects shot dead have been identified, he added, without giving further details.

So far, authorities have arrested four suspects, including three Moroccans and a Spaniard, none of whom had a criminal record related to "terrorism", police said.

16.29 American among dead

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has confirmed that one American was killed in the attack on Las Ramblas.

Tillerson said he could confirm the death of "one American citizen," and added that Washington was "still confirming the death or injuries" of other US nationals.

"We offer our thoughts and prayers to their families," Tillerson said.

16:20 Spanish and Catalan leaders see eye to eye

The attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils have brought a rare show of unity between the Spanish central government and the devolved, pro-independence Catalan administration.

Following a so called "crisis cabinet" meeting held between members of the two administrations on Friday, PM Mariano Rajoy said it was important to send a message of unity.

"I've expressed my opinion that it's very important we’re able to work together and exchange whatever has to be exchanged, and act as a team," he explained at a media briefing.

"At Plaça Catalunya we saw an admirable response from our society, which has sent a clear message to the terrorists. I'm not scared," Puigdemont added.

This is the first time the two politicians who are normally at odds have sat at the same table since a private meeting in January. 

16:08 Update on casualties

The Catalan emergency services have provided a fresh update on the number of people affected by the attacks. A total of 126 people were injured – 120 in Barcelona and six in Cambrils. At this time 61 people have been released from hospital (59 in Barcelona and two in Cambrils) while 65 people remain in care (61 in Barcelona and four in hospitals around smaller city Tarragona, where Cambrils is located). Of those still in hospital, 17 are in critical condition in Barcelona, 25 seriously injured in the same city, and three seriously injured in Tarragona. The number of fatalities remains 14.

15:32 Spain remains on Terrorism threat level 4

Spain's interior ministry has decided not to up the alert level to a maximum 5 in the aftermath of the two attacks in Catalonia, despite the fact that several of the alleged perpetrators are still on the run.

Juan Ignacio Zoido, the Spanish Interior Minister will head an emergency crisis meeting tomorrow to consult with experts on whether to raise the alert a notch.

Level Five will only be activated if the security services deem that there is an 'imminent terror threat' and it would mean putting extra forces on the streets.

15:23 British PM expresses concern for missing boy

British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a televised address that "a number of British nationals were caught up in the attack," but provided no other details on the number of wounded.

She also mentioned that authorities "are urgently looking into reports of a child believed missing, who is a British dual national". 

The child is believed to be seven-year-old Julian Cadman, whose father is from Sydney. The family lives in Kent, in the southeast of England.

15:21 Bystanders erupt into spontaneous applause for the police at a roadblock

15:00 Driver in Barcelona attack not yet identified, police say

Three of those arrested are of Moroccan citizenship, and the other is from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Mossos chief Trapero revealed. The youngest is 21, and the rest are 28, 34 and 27. Trapero also noted that the identity of the driver in the Barcelona attack has not yet been identified, contrary to media reports from earlier in the day, and police have not ruled out the possibility that it could have been one of the people killed in Cambrils. 

14:55 Original plan was to use explosives, but terrorists improvised 'out of desperation'

Trapero noted that "Our working theory is that these attacks were planned a certain time ago and we still have to determine how many people were involved in planning them". The terrorists are thought to have been "preparing a series of attacks in Barcelona which the explosion in Alcanar prevented" as it destroyed the materials they had planned to use, leading to an attack "out of desperation" in Barcelona with a vehicle.

"In the coming hours there could be more operations and arrests" by the Mossos, he added. Anti-terror measures are still active in the Girona province but the rest of Catalonia is no longer subject to restrictions.   Three people have been arrested in Ripoll and one in Alcanar, he reiterated.

14.53  Details on the 'jihadist cell' responsible for attacks

Trapero confirms that the operation in Alcanar and the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils “are connected to the same group” and elaborated that the Mossos investigation is focused on the people who were operating in Alcanar, the five people killed at Cambrils – three of whom have now been identified – and identifying the people who carried out the rental of three vehicles that have been seized and are being analyzed.
14.50 Chief of police confirms one police officer was responsible for shooting dead four of the attackers in Cambrils.


At a press conference on Friday, Mossos chief Josep Lluís Trapero thanked the public for their cooperation and “the warmth” they have shown to the victims and families. He also said the thoughts of the entire Mossos force is with the officer who killed four attackers in Cambrils, noting that “despite being a professional, killing four people is not an easy thing to digest".

14:11  Police have now confirmed that a fourth man is in custody.

But he is not thought to be the driver of the van.

14.02 Heartbreaking details about the death of a father in front of his two young children.

Moving tributes have been paid to Bruno Gulotta, the Italian father-of-two who was mown down and killed in the attack on Las Ramblas. 

READ MORE: Italian father slain in front of his family

13.35 No official word yet on the number of British nationals caught by in the attack

But the British Embassy say they have extra staff on the ground to help.

"Our thoughts are with the victims of these terrible attacks and the people of Spain,” said a spokesman from the embassy in Madrid.

"We are currently assisting a small number of British people affected and are working to find out if any more need our help. We have deployed additional staff to Barcelona and have offered support to the Spanish authorities.”

And a reminder that the helpline for people calling from Spain is 112 and 012. From abroad it is 0034 93 214 21 24 and 0034 900 400 012.

13:27 Fourth person arrested according to reports

Catalan paper Ara reports that a fourth person has been arrested after being detained in Ripoll, meaning four people in total are now arrested for the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrills. The police are still searching for the driver from the attack on La Rambla. 

13:13 Details of the nationalities of those injured and killed released

The Catalan emergency services have now provided a breakdown of the nationalities of those injured or killed in the attacks:

German, Algerian, Argentinean, Australian, Austrian, Belgian, Moroccan, Canadian, Chinese, Colombian, Romanian, Venezuelan, Cuban, Ecuadorian, Egyptian, Spanish, American, Filipino, French, British, Greek, Dutch, Taiwanese, Honduran, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Kuwaiti, Macedonian, Mauritian, Pakistani, Peruvian, Dominican, Turk.

13:09 Metro stations on La Rambla reopen

The Liceu and Plaça Catalunya metro stations, both of which have entrances on La Rambla, have been reopened. 

13:00 34 nationalities among the injured and killed

People of 34 different nationalities were killed or injured in the attacks in Cambrils and Barcelona, according to a provisional figure from the Catalan emergency services.

12:54 Rajoy: We are all Catalonia

Mariano Rajoy has commented on the minute's silence at Plaça Catalunya.

"I'm grateful for the exemplary behaviour of society. We raise our voices together in defence of freedom. #WeAreAllCatalonia" the Spanish PM wrote on Twitter.

12:31 Fourteenth person dies in hospital

The number of people killed in Thursday's attacks has increased to 14, the Catalan emergency services have confirmed. A woman who was in critical condition at the Joan XXIII hospital in Tarragona passed away. She was a victim of the attack in Cambrils. 

12:27 More details on Cambrils incident

More details have emerged about the confrontation in Cambrils earlier on Friday morning. According to La Vanguardia, a sole Mossos d’Esquadra officer neutralized four of the five attackers, who were armed with machetes and axes according per their sources. 

12:18 "This is terrorism's defeat

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont has commented on the minute's silence:

"The response from Barcelona's people has been immense, impressive. This is terrorism's defeat, the spontaneous cries of 'I am not scared'".

12:15 Barça mark minute's silence

FC Barcelona, arguably the best-known representative of the city of Barcelona across the world, also marked the minute's silence at the club's office. The players will wear black armbands in mourning during their debut match of the La Liga season this weekend.

12:03 "I'm not scared": Minute's silence held

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and King Felipe VI stood side-by-side for the minute's silence held at a packed Plaça Catalunya less than 24 hours after the attack. The silence ended with applause by those standing at Barcelona's major square, followed by a spontaneous outburst of "I'm not scared" ("No tinc por" in Catalan) by those in attendance.

11:55 Citizens turn out for minute's silence

Large queues have formed on the streets leading to Plaça Catalunya ahead of the 12:00 minute's silence. Authorities had told those who wished to attend to arrive early as there would be thorough searches carried out by police.

11.29 WANTED: Moussa Oukabir Soprano

More details have emerged about the presumed driver of the van that mowed down dozens of people on Las Ramblas leaving 13 dead and more than 80 injured.

He has been named in the media as Moussa Oukabir Soprano, the younger brother of Driss Oukabir, who was the first arrested yesterday in Ripoll. According to reports in Spanish media, he is either approaching his 18th birthday or is just 18 and recently returned from a trip to Morocco.

Old posts found on a website dating back two years show that Moussa once said that if he was King of the World the first thing he would do would be "Kill all infidels. And leave only Muslims to follow their religion".

Authorities have said they believe those involved in the attacks were a cell of 12 people based in Catalonia. Five are dead, three are in custody which leaves four - including the driver - still at large.

11:06 Message from Carles Puigdemont

Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont warned Friday a suspect was still on the run after two attacks in Barcelona and another popular Spanish seaside city, saying he could still potentially be

Asked on Spanish radio whether an alleged "terrorist" was still at large and dangerous, he responded: "On the run yes, as for whether he is capable of harm, we don't know at the moment."

But he warned that "these types of people have already demonstrated that
they have the will to harm whatever happens."

10:30 World reaction

A look at the front pages from around the globe. This is how the world reacted to the devastating attack in Barcelona.


10:01 Van suspect


Police have said they are looking for Mussa Oukabir, the younger brother of a man, Driss Oukabir who was arrested in Ripoll on Thursday evening. Driss handed himself in, reportedly after his name and photograph was released to the media as the person thought to have rented the van that carried out the attack on Las Ramblas. He told police that he was not involved and that his ID had been taken. 

09.53 Silence in Plaza Catalunya

A minute's silence will be held in Plaza Catalunya at 12 noon on Friday in memory of the victims to which King Felipe VI is expected to attend.

Police have warned those who want to attend to come on foot and without bringing backpacks or large bags,. And expect to be asked for ID at police checkpoints.

09.50 False explosive vests

Police have confirmed that the five men who carried out the car attack in Cambrils were wearing fake explosives on the body. 

09:15 More than 100 people still hospitalized

More than 100 people are still hospitalized in 15 Catalan hospitals as a result of the Barcelona attack, the region's Emergency Services have confirmed.

8:50 Third person arrested in connection with attacks

Los Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police force confirmed that a third person has been arrested.


What we know so far:

Attack in Cambrils

Around 2am in the morning in the seaside resort town of Cambrils, 120km south of Barcelona, reports came through of another vehicle attack. A black Audi A3 attempted to deliberately run down people on the boardwalk of the town.

Armed police shot dead four of the men inside the vehicle and a fifth man was injured after fleeing the vehicle on foot. He later died.

Six bystanders were injured, two described as ‘serious’, and one policeman was hurt in the attack.

Reports suggest that some of the men appear to have been wearing explosive belts.

The upturned Audi used in the attack in Cambrils. Photo: AFP

Police said they were "working on the hypothesis that the terrorists shot dead in Cambrils are linked to what happened in Barcelona".

Javier Zaragoza, the head of the Audiencia Nacional, the court that deals with terror offences, said on Friday that those killed had no known links to jihadism.   

Explosion at house in Alcanar

Police have also linked the two attacks to an earlier explosion that destroyed a house in Alcanar, killing one person and wounding at least one more, on Wednesday night.

Although no terrorism alarm was raised at the time of the explosion, police now say they believe explosives were being prepared at the property, and may have gone off accidentally.

Sant Just Desvern

On Thursday evening, two hours after the attack on Las Ramblas, a shootout at a police roadblock in a town close to Barcelona left a man dead. Police originally said it was not connected to the attack in Las Ramblas

But on Friday morning, it emerged that the dead man – the owner of the car – was not in the driver’s seat and had in fact been stabbed to death. 

Police are now working on the theory that he could have been taken hostage by someone linked to the Barcelona attack - perhaps even the van driver.

Other arrests

Police announced the arrest of two suspects, identified as a Spaniard and a Moroccan, but said the driver was still on the run.   

Message from Spain's Prime Minister

"We're united in grief," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address after rushing to Barcelona, the biggest city in Catalonia, a region in Spain's northeast whose separatist government is defying Madrid with a drive for independence.

"Above all we're united in the firm intention to defeat those who want to take our values and way of life from us."


There were at least 24 nationalities among the Barcelona victims who came from countries as varied as France, Venezuela, Australia, Ireland, Peru, Algeria and China, according to Spain's civil protection agency.

Belgium said one of its citizens had died in the Las Ramblas assault, while The Hague said three Dutch were injured and a Greek diplomat reported three nationals had been wounded -- a woman and her two children.

READ MORE Barcelona victims: Three-year-old among dead



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