Wednesday

21st Feb 2018

Death toll rising from Barcelona attack

  • Spanish special police in training exercise. Manhunt for Las Ramblas driver continued on Friday (Photo: PROContando Estrelas)

The death toll from the terrorist attacks in Spain is likely to rise as 15 people remained in critical condition on Friday (18 August).

Thirteen people died immediately and more than 100 were injured earlier on Thursday afternoon when a man drove a van onto the pavement at high speed in Las Ramblas, a popular tourist destination in the city of Barcelona.

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  • Eleven million people a year visit Barcelona (Photo: Derek Winterburn)

The dead include a three-year old girl. A six-year old girl is one of those still fighting for her life.

The driver, who ran away from the scene on foot, remained at large on Friday and people were advised to stay indoors amid a police hunt.

One other person is also in a critical condition and five others were injured in a follow-up attack in which a car rammed pedestrians in Cambrils, a small town near Barcelona, shortly before midnight on Thursday.

Police shot dead five men involved in that attack, who were said to have been carrying suicide bombs.

Two other men were also killed in separate incidents that may have been linked to the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks.

One of them was found dead from stab wounds in the passenger seat of a car in Barcelona on Thursday.

The second one was killed in an explosion in a house in Alcanar, 200km from Barcelona, on Wednesday, in what was a suspected bomb-making accident.

Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy told an emergency news conference on Thursday that the incidents were a “jihadist attack”.

The Amaq news agency, a mouthpiece for Islamic State (IS), a jihadist group based in Syria, said: “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”.

The “coalition” is a US-led group of Western and Arabic states that are carrying out anti-IS air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Worldwide shock

The Catalan government said the dead and injured came from 24 different countries.

They include 26 French people, as well as Belgians, Dutch tourists, Germans, Greeks, Hungarians, Irish people, Italians, Romanians, and Spanish nationals.

They also include people from Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, Macedonia, Peru, and Venezuela.

Spain’s Rajoy said: “We are united in our mourning and in our determination to overcome those who want to rob us of our values and our way of life”.

Carles Puigdment, the leader of the Catalan region that is home to Barcelona, said: “Catalonia will rise to the occasion to defend peace and freedom. Democracy will break barbarism”.

Leaders, celebrities, and CEOs from around the world also issued statements of condolence on Thursday.

"All my thoughts and France's solidarity to the victims,” French president Emmanuel Macron said.

British prime minister Theresa May said: “The UK stands with Spain against terror”.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission chief, added: “I hold a special thought for the heroic people who responded by running towards danger to help others and to the security forces who are working to keep the population safe”.

Pig tweet

Donald Trump, the US leader, caused controversy by tweeting: “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists”.

Pershing was a US general who purportedly dipped bullets in pig’s blood before executing Islamist fighters. Pigs are taboo in Islam.

The Islamic Commission of Spain voiced “emphatic condemnation and repulsion” to the Barcelona attack and said it hoped “that those responsible for these attacks can be detained and brought to justice as soon as possible”.

Vehicles were also used to ram people in separate attacks in London, Stockholm, Berlin, and in Nice, France, in the past 13 months.

The Nice attack in July 2016, the deadliest one, killed 86 people and injured 458.

EU to crack down on art-funded terrorism

The EU executive has presented measures to crack down on the traffic of cultural goods as part of an effort to cut funding to terrorist groups.

Greek EU commissioner challenges bribery allegations

Dimitris Avramopoulos says he will mount a legal challenge to reveal the identities of people behind allegations that he, along with other former Greek ministers, had accepted money from a Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

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