Catalan police on manhunt after US sends out Ramblas terror alert

Catalan police are on the lookout for a man suspected of planning an attack in Barcelona this Christmas, following a warning by US intelligence.

Catalan police on manhunt after US sends out Ramblas terror alert
Photos: AFP

The US State Department has warned its citizens in Barcelona to be on high alert for terrorist threats in the Catalan capital, specifically along the city’s emblematic and pedestrian-packed Ramblas district. 

“Exercise heightened caution around areas of vehicle movement, including buses, in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona during Christmas and New Year’s,” tweeted the government body.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, and other public areas.”

As a result of the shared information (it remains unclear whether US government sources contacted Spain or Catalonia officials directly), regional police force Mossos d'Esquadra are now looking for a man they suspect could be behind the potential attack.

He’s being referred to as BL, a 30-year-old Moroccan from Casablanca who has a permit to drive buses.

This last fact is of particular concern for regional authorities following August 2017’s van attack on pedestrians on the Ramblas and the 2016 truck attack on a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France.

Barcelona Mossos are currently carrying out checks on bus and minibus drivers throughout Barcelona city centre, as well as reinforcing security measures to try to locate the suspect.

Barcelona’s Information Council is also carrying out checks at vehicle rental companies, hotels and Catalan regional border posts.

SEE ALSO: Barcelona unveils new anti-terror measures in response to August attack

There is currently nothing to suggest the suspect is in Barcelona at present.

The man has a criminal record after insulting a Spanish Civil Guard officer at Malaga airport in 2006. Police sources told Spanish national daily El País that he had travelled regularly between Spain and Morocco in the past three years.

Thirteen people were killed and 130 were injured when 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians on La Rambla on August 17, 2017.

Nine hours later, five men thought to be members of the same Islamic extremism cell drove into pedestrians in the nearby town of Cambrils, killing one woman and injuring six more. All five of the attackers were shot and killed by Spanish police.

FIND OUT: Questions remain as anniversary of Catalonia attacks approaches



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.