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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Barcelona attack: Suicide belt found at extremist cell’s exploded house

A fatal explosion at the house before the Barcelona attack led the alleged plotters to switch to vehicle attacks

Investigators found a real explosive belt in the rubble of a house in Alcanar, where suspects of the twin assaults in Spain were believed to be building bombs. Jose Jordan/ AFP Photo
Investigators found a real explosive belt in the rubble of a house in Alcanar, where suspects of the twin assaults in Spain were believed to be building bombs. Jose Jordan/ AFP Photo

A belt charged with explosives was found in a house where an extremist cell plotted to attack people in Barcelona with bombs, Spanish police said on Wednesday.

The plotters switched to attacking with vehicles rather than bombs when a fatal explosion at the house in Alcanar derailed their original plan.

On Tuesday two people alleged to have been part of the extremist cell were provisionally jailed after a court in Madrid heard that the group had been making bombs for an imam, who was planning a suicide bombing in Barcelona.

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Abdelbaki Es Satty, an imam, was identified as the leader of the cell by the two jailed suspects Mohamed Houli Chemlal, 21, and Driss Oukabir, 28.

It is not known whether the belt found at the house was going to be used by Mr Es Satty, who died along with another cell member during the explosion.

The vehicle attack in Barcelona left 13 people dead and over 100 injured, while the second attack in Cambrils killed one person and left several injured. A 15th victim was stabbed to death by an attacker who fleeing the scene in Barcelona.

One of the jailed survivors, Mr Houli Chemlal is believed to be key in understanding the extent of the plot, according to investigators, as he was the only person to make it out of the blast in Alcanar alive.

Mr Houli Chemlal said he survived because he had been outside the house when the explosion occurred washing the dishes. He was later arrested in hospital.

More than 100 tanks of butane gas, nails to be used as shrapnel and 500 litres of a highly flammable liquid known as acetone were also discovered at the house by the police.

The six attackers who were shot dead by police, which included the five in Cambrils and the driver of the van, Younes Abouyaaqoub, were now known to be wearing fake suicide belts.

Police are also investigating materials found during raids, which took place in northeastern Spain, at a cybercafe in Ripoll and a house in Vilafranca del Penedes.