Militant Islamist Younes Abouyaaqoub drove a van at high speed into crowds walking along Las Ramblas in Barcelona, killing 15 people and injuring more than 120 others. The 22-year-old Moroccan zig-zagged through the pedestrianised area with the apparent aim of causing maximum carnage. Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility.
Abouyaaqoub initially evaded capture but police traced his whereabouts. Within three days, he was shot dead near the town of Subirats, 50km (30 miles) outside Barcelona. At the time, he was wearing a fake suicide belt and was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” (popularly translated from the Arabic as ‘God is the greatest’).
That week saw other violent incidents in the area. The day before the Las Ramblas attack, a house in Alcanar, Tarragona, was destroyed in an explosion. According to police, the homemade incendiary device was intended for an attack on Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. The day after the Las Ramblas atrocity, a car ploughed into a police vehicle on the seafront in Cambrils, also in Tarragona. One of the attackers stabbed a woman. Police killed five suspected terrorists. Spanish authorities linked these events to a terrorist cell of 12 members, led by militant Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty.
Spain’s 2016 National Security report stated that not just in Barcelona but elsewhere in Catalonia “the process of radicalisation has occurred more quickly and [the] Islamic community is characterised as the most radical, with more links with other extremists in Europe”.
After the attacks, up to 1,000 Muslims marched down Las Ramblas with a banner stating “Muslims against terrorism”. Barcelona’s chief rabbi, Meir Bar-Hen, described Spain as a “hub of Islamist terror for all of Europe”. He suggested Jews should migrate to Israel because “Europe is lost”.
Gencat.cat, 30th August 2017; Guardian, 22nd August 2017; Independent, 20th August 2017; Sky News, 18th August 2017; Telegraph, 21st August 2017; La Vanguardia, 21st August 2017; Informe Anual de Seguridad Nacional 2016.