Using vehicles as weapons of terror in Europe

20 Aug 2017

Spanish police today hunted for a Moroccan man suspected to have carried out one of two terror attacks that killed 14 people, injured 120 more and and plunged the country into shock and grief. Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said the cell behind the carnage in the holiday cities of Barcelona and Cambrils had been "dismantled," although local authorities took a more cautious tone. Police said they had cast a dragnet for 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub. Media reports said he was the driver of a van that smashed into people on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas boulevard on Thursday. Just hours later, a similar attack struck in the seaside town of Cambrils early yesterday. Police killed the five attackers in Cambrils, some of whom were wearing fake explosive belts. The so-called Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the operation, as well as for a knife attack that wounded seven in Russia today. In Finland, meanwhile, police said a stabbing spree by a Moroccan asylum-seeker yesterday that left two dead was being treated as a terrorist incident. The IS's claim in Spain is believed to be their first in the country, but the method of using vehicles as weapons follows other assaults commandeered or inspired by the group, including in Berlin, London and Paris. The terror cell in Spain reportedly comprised at least 12 young men, some of them teenagers.
Investigators have been honing in on the small town of Ripoll, at the foot of the Pyrenees, where many of the suspects - including Abouyaaqoub - lived. Today, police raided the apartment of an imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, according to his flatmate who gave his name only as Nourddem. Spanish daily El Pais, quoting police sources, said the imam may have been one of those killed in an explosion in a home in Alcanar, some 200 kilometres south of Barcelona, where the alleged jihadists were believed to have been building bombs. "The last time I saw him was Tuesday and he told me that he was going to see his wife in Morocco," Nourddem told AFP. A waiter at a Ripoll cafe told AFP he had served beers to some of the suspects numerous times, most recently just two days ago. "They came to have beer at another bar in the square where I used to work" said the waiter on condition of anonymity. Most of the suspects are children of Moroccan immigrants, including Ripoll-born Moussa Oukabir, 17, one of five suspects shot dead in the Cambrils attack. His older brother, Driss, counts among the four arrested. (AFP)