Spain police say Barcelona van attack “intended to kill as many people as possible”

Officials say at least 13 people were killed and 50 injured after a van plowed into pedestrians in the popular Las Ramblas district of Barcelona, Spain, on Aug. 17, 2017. In this photo, an injured person is carried from the scene by police and bystanders. (CREDIT: Oriol Duran / AP)

UPDATE:

5:30 P.M. (AP) — The interior chief for Spain’s Catalonia region says three days of mourning have been declared to honor the victims of the van attack that killed 13 people in Barcelona.

Interior Department chief Joaquim Forn says the death toll could increase since at least 15 of the 100 people thought to have been injured in the attack were hurt badly.

Senior police official Josep Lluis Trapero says the van driving up onto a sidewalk and swerving among pedestrians in a crowded area was “clearly a terror attack intended to kill as many people as possible.”

Trapero says the two suspects in custody were directly linked to the attack, “but that doesn’t mean that either were the author of the attack.”

3:45 P.M. (AP) — The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the van attack in Barcelona that officials say killed 12 people and injured many others.

A statement carried by the extremist group’s media arm — the Aamaq news agency — says Thursday’s attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State.”

It says the attack was in response to IS calls for its followers to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive the extremist group from Syria and Iraq.

The statement provided no further details about the attackers.


(ORIGINAL STORY)

BARCELONA, Spain (CBS) — Police in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona say a white van has jumped the sidewalk in the city’s historic Las Ramblas district, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 50. Spanish public broadcaster RTVE says one suspect has been arrested.

Police are treating the incident as a terror attack.

“We confirm the terrorist attack,” Catalan police said. “The protocol for terrorist attacks has been activated.”

Heavily armed police on the scene in Barcelona, Spain, after a terrorist attack where a van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city’s famous Las Ramblas boulevard on Aug. 17, 2017. (CREDIT: Josep Lago / AFP/Getty Images)

A regional interior minister confirmed on Twitter that at least 13 people were killed in the attack and more than 50 injured.

In a photograph shown by RTVE, at least five people were lying on the ground in the street Thursday afternoon and were apparently being helped by police and others. Videos of the scene recorded people screaming as they fled.

At this time, the extent of the victims’ injuries remains unclear.

On Twitter, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he is in contact with authorities and the priority is to attend to the injured.

**Translation: “I am in contact with all administrations. Priority: Attend to the servely wounded in Las Ramblas and facilitate the work of security forces. MR”**

Rajoy also sent out a later tweet declaring terrorists would never be able to defeat his country.

**Translation: “The terrorists will never defeat a united people who love freedom from barbarism. All Spain is with the victims and families MR”**

Reuters reports two armed men reportedly entered a restaurant following the crash. Police say they have located a second van connected to the attack in the town of Vic.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper, citing police sources, said shortly after the attack, perpetrators of the van incident were holed up in a bar. Armed police ran down the streets and through a market, checking in stores and cafes, presumably in search of them.

Barcelona’s Tv3 reports police have surrounded a bar called Rey de Istanbul. A man thought to be the driver of a van was surrounded by police. The Spanish passport of a person of Moroccan origin was found at the scene of the attack.

Police haven’t confirmed they have a suspect cornered.

Catalan Emergency Services have asked authorities to close train stations in the area close to the crash site.

This file photo from 2015 shows pedestrians walking along Las Ramblas, one of the most popular areas of Barcelona. The street with a wide pedestrian mall is lined with shops, bars and restaurants. (CREDIT: Albert Gea / REUTERS)

Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the center of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrianized path in the center of the street, but cars can travel on either side.

Authorities are asking people not to go near the area.

Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, was watching TV in his building just off Las Ramblas when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony.

People flee the scene in Barcelona, Spain, after a van plowed into a crowd of residents and tourists in the historic Las Ramblas district on Aug. 17, 2017. (CREDIT: Giannis Papanikos / AP)

“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 by. Then police arrived and pushed everyone a full block away. Even people leaning out of doors were being told to go back inside, he said.

Fleming said regular police had their guns drawn and riot police were at the end of his block, which was now deserted.

“It’s just kind of a tense situation,” Fleming said. “Clearly people were scared.”

Carol Augustin, a manager at La Palau Moja — an 18th-century place on Las Ramblas that houses government offices and a tourism information center — said the van passed right in front of the building.

“We saw everything. People started screaming and running into the office. It was such a chaotic situation. There were families with children. The police made us close the doors and wait inside,” she said.

In the U.S., President Trump tweeted about the attack from his New Jersey golf club, where he is on a working vacation.

“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” the president wrote.

During a joint news conference with Japanese officials, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. stood ready to assist Spanish authorities in their probe of the attack. He stressed Washington’s commitment to hunting down “terrorists around the world.”

“I’d like to start by acknowledging the incident in Barcelona, which has the hallmarks, it appears, of yet another terrorist attack,” Tillerson said. “Terrorists around the world should know the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a written statement in response to the attack that reads in part: “The Department is standing by to support our allies as they respond to and recover from this horrendous attack. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and those affected. We will not let terrorism become the new normal. Instead, such acts of violence only harden our resolve to fight back against violent extremists, bring them to justice and dismantle their networks.”

Cars, trucks and vans have been the weapon of choice in multiple extremist attacks in Europe in the last year.

The most deadly was the driver of a tractor-trailer who targeted Bastille Dayrevelers in the southern French city of Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people died after a driver used a hijacked trick to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

There have been multiple attacks this year in London, where a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death in March.

Four other men drove onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, unleashing a rampage with knives that killed eight people in June. Another man also drove into pedestrians leaving a London mosque later in June.

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