At least one person has been killed and almost certainly more than that in a terrorist attack along Barcelona’s tourist-heavy Las Ramblas street. Earlier this evening local time a van hopped the curb and drove into a crowd of people on the sidewalk. Catalan police later confirmed that this was a deliberate act and was/is being treated as a terrorist attack. Officially there has been just the one fatality, but unconfirmed reports from Spanish media are putting the death toll at 13, with more than 30 people injured and some of them seriously. The Guardian and CNN, among many other sites, are doing live updates, and here’s the live feed from France 24:
and Al Jazeera English:
There have been a number of other unconfirmed reports related to the attack. One has a second van following the first and being used as a getaway vehicle by the driver. Another has either one armed man or two armed men storming into a nearby restaurant, raising the possibility of a hostage situation. As far as I know, at this point both of these reports are unconfirmed, and given the chaos that usually follows an attack like this it’s best to treat them with caution until they can be confirmed.
Spanish media is apparently also reporting that there’s been one arrest in the attack, but I’m not sure if it’s the person who was driving the van or somebody connected to him in some way. From what the Guardian is saying it sounds like he might be the guy who rented the van used in the attack. He’s being described as “North African” but a legal Spanish resident. On the other hand the guy who’s supposedly been arrested and they guy Spanish authorities are publicly identifying as the person who rented the van may be two different people, it’s not clear.
The Guardian is also saying that the second van I mentioned above has been found at a mall, but they’re also also saying that police are going door to door looking for suspects near the scene of the attack. Like I said, chaos.
No claim of responsibility yet but obviously it’s very early.
I’m probably going to be off the blog for the rest of the day but if I can get back here to update with new information I will.
UPDATE 2: The figure of 13 dead now seems to have been confirmed, with over 50 injured
UPDATE 3: There are now reports of a second incident in which three police officers were killed. It’s briefly mentioned in this France 24 video, but I haven’t seen it in any other places I would consider reputable so treat this one with caution.
UPDATE 4: OK, I’ve been out for a while, so here’s where things stand now as far as I can tell:
- Spanish police have killed four people in the port town of Cambrils, not far from Barcelona, in thwarting what they’re calling a second attack–apparently they also drove a van into a crowd of people early Friday morning, but I don’t have any information as to casualties apart from the four dead attackers
- the death toll in the Las Ramblas van attack has stayed at 13, with more than 100 people injured–15 of them seriously, but I don’t know if “seriously” here means “life-threatening”
- ISIS has already claimed responsibility–in this case I’m inclined to believe they were directly involved, given all the different pieces that seem to have been in play here (at least one cell and possibly two, with bomb-making capability, coordinating attacks, etc.)
- at this point there have been two people arrested related to the van attack but neither of them is the driver, who appears to have fled the scene on foot (reports about him running into a bar or restaurant armed seem not to have panned out)
- one of the people arrested is named Driss Oukabir–he’s the Moroccan national/Spanish resident who rented the van used in the Las Ramblas attack–who at this point appears to be saying that his papers were stolen (possibly by his brother) and he had nothing to do with the attack
- Oukabir doesn’t seem to have been on anybody’s radar as far as potential jihadi activity, but he did have a warrant out for his arrest on domestic violence charges, soooooo, yeah
- police have linked the van attack to an explosion yesterday in the nearby town of Alcanar that killed one person and was likely an accidental detonation of a bomb these guys were trying to build–it’s possible that Wednesday’s explosion led the attackers to switch tactics (from bombing to a vehicular attack) and to speed up their timetable lest the authorities catch up to them
- the second incident I mentioned in update 3 involved a car that struck two police officers elsewhere in Barcelona–contrary to earlier reports it doesn’t seem that those officers were killed, but the driver of the car was
- the bomb squad was active in the area where the above incident happened, I’m not sure why, but authorities are saying that this incident was not connected to the Las Ramblas incident
UPDATE 5: The story has changed on the incident in Cambrils. There were apparently five attackers all wearing bomb belts, and they do not appear to have driven into a crowd a la the Barcelona attack. Five civilians and one police officer were injured in this whole situation, two of them severely, but it’s not clear how they were injured. The suspects may have crashed their vehicle in to a police car, which could have caused injuries, and presumably some of the injured were wounded in the ensuing gunfight.