Barcelona terror attack: police hunt 18-year-old Moussa Oukabir

Officers seeking younger brother of man arrested on suspicion of hiring van that was used to kill 13 people on Las Ramblas

Spanish police investigating the Barcelona terrorist attack are hunting an 18-year-old man who is suspected of driving the van that ploughed through Las Ramblas on Thursday, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 100.

Police sources told Spanish media they were looking for Moussa Oukabir, the younger brother of Driss Oukabir, who was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of hiring the van used in the attack. Driss Oukabir has denied involvement and is reported to have told police that his identity documents were stolen before they were used to obtain the vehicle.

Four suspects – three Moroccans and one Spaniard – have been arrested in connection with the Barcelona attack, local police chief Josep Lluís Trapero said on Friday. None had any record of terrorist activity, he added.

Catalan police reportedly believe Moussa Oukabir fled the scene of the attack in Las Ramblas and is still on the run. A spokeswoman for the force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said officers were not officially naming any suspects as they continued their inquiries. She said official updates would continue to appear on the force’s Twitter account.

Little is known about Moussa Oukabir, who is thought to have turned 18 very recently. However, attention has already focused on comments he made on the social media site Kiwi.

Asked what he would do on his first day if he became absolute ruler of the world, he replied: “Kill the unbelievers and leave only Muslims who follow their religion.” Asked in which country he would never contemplate living, he answered: “The Vatican.”

Hours after the Barcelona attack, five suspected terrorists were shot dead by Spanish police in the coastal town of Cambrils after they drove into pedestrians early on Friday morning, as part of the country’s second terror attack in 24 hours.

One person was killed in the attack, which left five other bystanders and a police officer injured. Some of the suspects wore what appeared to be explosive belts, which were later found to be fake.

Jordi Munell, the mayor of Ripoll, where both brothers lived, said the town was in a state of shock following the events of Thursday and Friday. “We know the police are looking for [Moussa Oukabir] but we don’t know if he’s among the people who’ve been arrested,” he said.

“The police have been checking all the homes connected with the family today. People here are just really surprised. Ripoll is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else. We don’t understand how people we’ve been living side-by-side with could be involved in terrorism and nor do their families. These are people that people have been to school with and played football with.”

Police believe the attacks in Las Ramblas and Cambrils are linked to an explosion earlier this week at a house in the small town of Alcanar, 120 miles south of Barcelona, that left one person dead and 16 injured.

Police and firefighters who came to the scene were wounded by a second blast. The Alcanar explosions were initially reported to have been caused by gas cylinders but Trapero later said those in the house were attempting to “prepare an explosive device”.

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Speaking at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Trapero said the driver of the Las Ramblas van was yet to be identified, but could be among the five terrorists shot dead in Cambrils. He also revealed that the terror cell had planned at least two attacks in a house in Alacanar.

“We’re working on the hypothesis that the authors [of the attacks] had been planning them both for a while in the building in Alcanar, but we can’t join up all the scenarios,” he said. “It was a group – we don’t have a concrete number – but we’re not discounting the idea that they were planning other attacks.”

The attack in Cambrils concluded a day of violence along the Catalan coast, which the police said was the work of a terrorist cell determined to “kill as many people as possible”.

Video footage from Cambrils showed three bodies on the ground in the town’s port. The police urged residents to stay indoors and later carried out controlled blasts on suspected explosive devices.

Fitzroy Davies, from Wolverhampton, was caught up in the second attack in Cambrils and saw one of the attackers being shot by police. He told the BBC that he had seen people running into the bar where he was as the assault unfolded.

“This guy came running up the road and was shouting something. I didn’t know what it was, so we said, ‘call the police,’” he said. “Within 30 seconds the police were already there, jumped out of the car, started shouting at the guy; the guy was then saying something else again. And then they – ‘pop, pop’ – did a couple of shots and he fell down.

“He stood back up and then he stepped over the fence and he started, he was taunting, smiling and he carried on walking to the police, and then they gave it to him again, a couple more shots and then he fell to the ground.”

Trapero said one officer had managed to kill all but one of the attackers. He said that it was not easy for the officer involved, despite being a professional.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Las Ramblas attack, saying on a website: “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the land of Andalusia.” The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said the whole country stood in solidarity with Barcelona, blaming “jihadi terrorism”.

Javier Zaragoza, the chief prosecutor of the Audiencia Nacional, which deals with terrorism cases, said the attackers did not appear to have previous links to jihadism.

“As far as we know, there was no previous investigation that might have identified them,” he told the Cadena Ser radio station. “Zero risk doesn’t exist when it comes to these things. The anti-terror police services have done really good work for years and various attacks have been prevented.”

At midday local time, thousands of people gathered in Barcelona’s main square for a minute’s silence to remember the dead. Among those in attendance were King Felipe of Spain, Rajoy, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan regional president, and Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona.

At the end of the minute’s silence, the crowd broke into applause and chanted “No tinc por” (“I am not afraid”).

Meanwhile the mayor of the French city of Nice, where dozens were mown down a year ago by an attacker driving a truck, has said he will meet his European counterparts next month to see how they can improve security in the aftermath of the Barcelona attack.

Eighty-six people were killed in the jihadist attack in the French Riviera city, the first of several similar incidents in Europe.

“I am convinced that life will prevail over death and that we will triumph over barbarism and terror,” Christian Estrosi told reporters after honouring Barcelona’s victims on the Promenade des Anglais where dozens died on Bastille Day last year.

Contributors

Sam Jones, Giles Tremlett and Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

The GuardianTramp

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