MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has declared a three-day period of national mourning from Friday through Sunday. He described the atrocity as a "jihadist" attack and called for unity in the face of terrorism.
The reports about the ramming incident in Barcelona emerged around 05:00 p.m. local time (15:00 GMT). A white Fiat van reportedly zigzagged 580 yards down the avenue, hitting pedestrians before crashing into a kiosk.
Local media initially linked the incident to drug trafficking. But the Catalan police confirmed the attack was of terrorist nature. Daesh terror group (IS, outlawed in Russia) was later reported to have claimed the attack.
Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn confirmed 13 fatalities late on Thursday, adding the injured tally had soared past 100, after authorities said 80 were hospitalized. Forn explained that dozens more had sought medical help on their own.
Local emergencies services requested the closure of train and underground stations in the affected area. The vicinity was cordoned off and ambulances lined the sidewalk. People were asked to avoid the Ramblas promenade. Cordons were lifted hours later.
The Spanish government, the Generalitat and the Barcelona City Council called for crisis meetings to manage the situation. Prime Minister Rajoy said called off his vacation and said he was going to Barcelona over the deadly attack.
In Search of Terrorists
After the incident, the Catalonia police reportedly found a second van in the town of Vic north of Barcelona, which was suspected to have been rented by terrorists as a getaway vehicle.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais cited the Civil Guard, who said the van was rented by Driss Oukabir Soprano in Catalonia’s Santa Perpetua de la Mogada municipality.
The media also reported that police were unable to enter Barcelona's central La Boqueria market amid shootout suggesting that the perpetrators could have taken hostages in a Turkish restaurant near market. The information was dismissed by the police.
Later in the day, media reported citing Catalan President Carles Puigdemont that two people had been detained over the attack. La Vanguardia newspaper reported one of them was Oukabir, a resident of Ripoll. According to the suspect's Facebook profile, Oukabir is from Marseille, the reports noted adding that the Oukabir had history of offenses.
Later on Thursday, the same newspaper said that an individual who had identified himself as Oukabir, had said that his documents had been stolen as he arrived at the police station in Ripoll. The statement has been confirmed by Ripoll’s Mayor Jordi Munell, who said that Oukabir had been apprehended on his way to the police station.
Earlier in the day, the local authorities reportedly distributed Oukabir's image stating he was a terror attack suspect. The distributed image does not correspond with the actual appearance of the suspected attacker detained by the authorities, the newspaper suggested.
Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero confirmed at a Thursday night press conference they had detained two suspects in the Catalan towns of Alcanar and Ripoll. They were identified as a Moroccan and a Spaniard from Spain’s Melilla enclave in North Africa.
Neither of them was the driver who is still on the run, Trapero added. The regional police force tweeted the driver appeared to be unarmed.
Terror Attack in Cambrils
Hours after the tragedy in Las Ramblas avenue, the Catalan police took to Twitter to warn people off the coastal town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.
Police said an operation was underway connected to a possible terrorist attack. No official account of the incident emerged, but local media claimed shots had been fired and suggested another van ramming might have taken place.
According to police's feed on social networks, four alleged terrorists were shot dead, while another one was injured and later died in custody. Six civilians and a police officer were also wounded as a result of the events in Cambrils.
The police said they were working on a theory that the Cambrils terror suspects were connected to the van attack in Barcelona, as well as to Wednesday night's explosion in Alcanar, in which a house was razed and one person was killed.