Barcelona terror suspect shot dead
Police in Catalonia say Younes Abouyaaqoub was wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt when he was killed in Subirats, about 60 kilometres away from Barcelona
Spanish police on Monday shot dead the man suspected of killing 13 people and injuring scores more when he rammed a hired van into crowds on Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas street.
Younes Abouyaaqoub, who was wearing a fake explosives belt, was shot in Subirats, about 60 kilometres from Barcelona.
"We confirm that the person shot down in the incident in Subirats (near Barcelona) is Younes Abouyaaqoub, the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Barcelona," police in Catalonia tweeted.
The news comes after a section of Las Ramblas was evacuated on Monday, as Spain remains on high alert.
Police also confirmed that the Moroccan imam believed to have radicalised the youths who committed the terror attacks had died in the explosion last Wednesday at a house where they were preparing materials for a much larger attack.
A Europe-wide manhunt had been under way for the 22-year-old Moroccan-born Abouyaaqoub, who fled Thursday’s gruesome scene on foot.
Even as French investigators ruled out terrorism as the motive for another vehicle attack that left one woman dead in the country’s second city, Marseilles, it was revealed that Abouyaaqoub had also killed a man as he made his escape.
Abouyaaqoub, whose home was in Ripoll, 106km north of Barcelona, was formally identified as the suspected Las Ramblas murderer by the Spanish authorities on Monday.
He is believed to have stabbed Pau Perez Villan, 34, an electrical engineer, while stealing his car more than an hour after the attack.
The body of the victim was found inside the car after it was driven through a police checkpoint and then abandoned as the driver fled on foot despite police opening fire.
Abouyaaqoub was believed to be the only member still at large from the cell responsible for the Barcelona bloodshed and another attack, several hours later, in the resort of Cambrils, 110km south-west of Barcelona.
The Catalan police, Mossos, described him as dangerous and possibly armed.
France’s BFM TV reported on Monday that Abouyaaqoub’s mother, Hannou Ghanimi, had appealed to her son to “stop what he is doing” and give himself up.
Echoing what acquaintances of terrorist suspects often say, neighbours told reporters Abouyaaqoub had seemed polite and withdrawn, showing no obvious signs of radicalisation, and had been working as an electrician.
In Monday’s Marseilles incident, a van was deliberately driven into two bus stops in different parts of the southern city, killing one woman and injuring another in the latest vehicle attack on European cities.
A 35-year-old man, who has a criminal record involving theft, drugs and illegal arms but was not listed as a terrorist suspect, was arrested in Vieux Port, the city’s celebrated old port area popular with locals and tourists alike.
He had driven a van into bus stops in two residential districts, an hour apart. A witness to the second attack, in which a woman in her forties was killed, noted his vehicle’s registration number and alerted police.
It was not immediately clear whether he had been planning a third attack, in or near the Vieux Port, but local prosecutors said investigators were pursuing the theory that he had psychiatric problems.
“There is nothing to lead us to treat this as an act of terrorism,” an officer told Agence France-Presse.
A French national, originally from the city of Grenoble, he had been undergoing psychiatric treatment in Marseille.
The Marseilles incidents came four days after last Thursday’s carnage on Las Ramblas.
One woman died in the subsequent attack in Cambrils and all five suspects were shot dead at the scene. They had used an Audi A3 to ram pedestrians and were armed with knives and wearing fake suicide belts.
The BBC quoted relatives of some of the men, who – like Abouyaaqoub – lived in Ripoll, a small town close to the French border at the foot of the Pyrenees mountain range, as saying a local imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, had radicalised several young people.
The imam made an extended visit to his native Morocco in June but was reportedly seen in Ripoll on Tuesday last week. Spanish media has suggested he was the ringleader or a key figure in the 12-strong terrorist cell.
Police did not discourage the speculation, saying there was strong evidence he was one of two people killed, apparently while trying to assemble powerful bombs at a house in another town south of Barcelona, Alcanar, on the eve of the attack on Las Ramblas.
About 120 gas canisters were found at the site, leading investigators to believe the terrorists may have been planning up to three coordinated bombing attacks, causing much greater loss of life than occurred.
One of the suspects killed at Cambrils had left a note apologising for the harm he was intending to cause, according to a relative quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
Six of the dead were Spanish, three were Italians and two Portuguese. The others were Canadian, Belgian, American and a seven-year-old Anglo-Australian boy, Julian Alessandro Cadman. Of 51 still hospitalised following the attacks, 25 are in either critical or serious conditions.
* Additional reporting by Reuters
Updated: August 21, 2017 10:51 PM