17 January 2019
Police officers walk through the area where a van crashed into pedestrians in Barcelona, Spain on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Police officers walk through the area where a van crashed into pedestrians in Barcelona, Spain on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

At least 13 dead, over 100 injured in Barcelona terror attack

At least 13 people were killed and more than a hundred injured as a van plowed through crowds of tourists in the heart of Barcelona on Thursday evening, a terror attack claimed by Islamic State.

Police have launched a manhunt for the van driver who is believed to have fled on foot after the attack, Reuters reports.

Witnesses said a white van zigzagged at high speed along the historic Las Ramblas district, ramming pedestrians and cyclists, sending some hurtling through the air.

Mobile phone footage showed several bodies strewn along the road, some motionless. Paramedics and bystanders bent over them, treating them and trying to comfort those still conscious.

The incident took place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, which is one of Europe’s top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year, the report noted.

Authorities say the death toll could rise as some of the injured were in a serious condition.

Police arrested two men, a Moroccan and a man from Spain’s north African enclave of Melilla, though neither was the driver.

It is not clear how many attackers had been involved.

In another incident, police shot dead a man who had driven a car into a police checkpoint in Barcelona, though they had no evidence he was connected with the van attack.

Hours beforehand, one person was killed in an explosion in a house about 100 km southwest of Barcelona, in an incident linked to the attack, according to the police.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack. 

“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,” it said in a statement carried by its Amaq news agency, making a reference to a US-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.

Spain has several hundred soldiers in Iraq providing training to local forces in the fight against IS, but they are not involved in ground operations.

If the involvement of Islamist militants is confirmed, it would be the latest in a string of attacks in the past 13 months in which they have used vehicles to bring carnage to the streets of European cities.

That modus operandi has killed well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.

Thursday’s incident was the deadliest attack in Spain since March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced three days of official mourning after Thursday’s “jihadist attack”.

“Today the fight against terrorism is the principal priority for free and open societies like ours. It is a global threat and the response has to be global,” he told a news conference in Barcelona.

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