Islamic State claims responsibility for van attack in Barcelona that killed 12 and injured at least 80

on Aug17

A van plowed into crowds of pedestrians in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district on Thursday, leaving bloodied people sprawled on the sidewalk and sending others fleeing an attack claimed by the militant group Islamic State.

At least 12 people were killed and 80 injured, the president of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, told reporters. The region’s interior minister had earlier put the toll at 13 dead and about 50 injured.

More than two hours after the initial attack, a car ran over two police officers in another part of the city, authorities said.

Catalan police tweeted that a vehicle ran over two Mosso d’Esquadr officers about 7:30 p.m. at a highway checkpoint near Barcelona. Few details were released about the incident, but police said they had located the vehicle in the town of Sant Just Desvern, about 16 miles from Barcelona.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack on the police officers was related to the original incident.

Amaq, a news agency affiliated with Islamic State, released a statement saying the van attack had been carried out by its “soldiers” in response to the “coalition countries,” presumably those nations, including Spain, that are battling the militant group in Iraq and Syria.

There were conflicting accounts of how many assailants were involved in the attack. Police said two suspects had been apprehended.

Citing unidentified police sources, El Pais reported that authorities arrested a 28-year-old native of Morocco, in connection with the attack

Authorities told the Spanish newspaper that the man had arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on Sunday, and had rented the van used in the attack from Santa Perpetua de Mogoda. The suspect has a history of run-ins with police and was released from prison in 2012, the newspaper reported.

It said authorities were looking for a Ford Focus and its occupants who had exchanged gunfire with police.

The attack occurred on Las Ramblas, a street popular with tourists and lined with shops and stalls running through the center of Barcelona. It has a wide pedestrian path running down its center, with cars traveling on both sides.

Police cordoned off the area and ordered nearby Metro and train stations to close. Armed officers could be seen searching side streets and evacuating shops and restaurants.

Video shared on social media showed at least five people lying on a tree-lined sidewalk as police and passersby tried to help them. Sirens blared and screaming could be heard.

A man identified only as Paul told RTVE that he was headed to work when he heard gunfire and saw people running. He ducked into a nearby store, where two tourists had already taken shelter.

“They are crying, and they are in a lot of panic,” he said, as shots resounded in the background.

Cities across Europe have been on alert for vehicle-ramming attacks after a string of such incidents in Berlin, London, Nice, France and elsewhere. Supporters of Islamic State celebrated the attack on social media.

In Washington, President Trump immediately denounced the attack. “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” he said on Twitter.

Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, told the Associated Press he was watching TV when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony.

“I saw women and children just running and they looked terrified,” he said.

He said there was a bang — possibly from someone rolling down a store shutter — and more people ran past. Then police arrived and pushed everyone a full block away. People leaning out of doors were being told to go back inside, he said.

Special correspondent Almadani reported from Barcelona and Times staff writers Zavis and Rocha from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

12:50 p.m.: The article was updated with news that Islamic State has claimed responsibility, and with a revised death toll.

11:50 a.m.: The article was updated throughout with staff reporting, including a revised death toll.

11 a.m. This article was updated with police confirming one dead and a Spanish broadcaster reporting that a suspect had been arrested.

10:15 a.m.: This article was updated with police reporting that 32 people were injured, 10 seriously.

10 a.m.: This article was updated with Spanish media reporting that up to 13 people were killed.

9:45 a.m.: This article was updated with Spanish media reporting that at least 20 people were injured.

9:29 a.m.: This article was updated with a report from Spanish media that police had confirmed one fatality and are treating the incident as a terrorist attack .

9:11 a.m.: This article was updated with a report from Spanish media that armed crash perpetrators were holed up in a bar.

8:55 a.m.: This article was updated with information about the location of the attack and confirmation of several injuries.

8:40 a.m.: This article was updated with police reporting possible injuries.

This article was originally published at 8:25 a.m.



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