Monday 23 July 2018

Police shoot dead Barcelona attack suspect who was 'wearing explosive belt'

Younes Abouyaaqoub is at the centre of a major manhunt by police investigating the terror attacks in Spain (Catalonian Police/AP)
Younes Abouyaaqoub (Spanish Interior Ministry via AP)
Armed police officers stand guard near Subirats, Spain. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Police hunting the van driver behind the Barcelona terror attack say they have shot dead a suspect wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt.

Local media said the dead man was Younes Abouyaaqoub, the 22-year-old Moroccan wanted for the Las Ramblas outrage.

A composite image of suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub,released by the Spanish Interior Ministry (Spanish Interior Ministry via AP)
A composite image of suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub,released by the Spanish Interior Ministry (Spanish Interior Ministry via AP)

He was cornered in Subirats, about 30 miles west of Barcelona.

According to local reports the man shouted Allahu Akbar, God is greater, before he was gunned down.

Officers from Spain's bomb squad used a robot to get close to the man shot by police.

Police said the man was wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt, which would be a reason for calling in the bomb squad.

Shortly before 5.30pm police confirmed that the man shot dead was Abouyaaqoub.

Local media said the man was spotted by a woman in the early afternoon and then fled through vineyards but police managed to find and shoot him on a road near a sewage treatment plant.

Police had earlier asked the rest of Europe to join the manhunt for the Moroccan-born man. They say he fled Las Ramblas on foot amid the chaos of the attack then hijacked a car, stabbing the driver to death, before crashing through a police checkpoint.

Thirteen people were killed in the attack in Barcelona on Thursday, including seven-year-old British boy Julian Cadman.

Joaquim Forn, head of home affairs in Catalonia's regional government, said earlier on Monday that "everything indicates" Abouyaaqoub was behind the wheel.

Police have revealed that he stole a car and killed its owner as he made his getaway after fleeing the carnage in Las Ramblas on foot.

Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 accomplices still at large. His mother, Hannou Ghanimi, had appealed for him to surrender, saying she would rather see him in prison than end up dead.

Four people have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks: three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain's North African enclave of Melilla. They will be taken to the high court in Madrid, which has jurisdiction over terrorism matters.

Abouyaaqoub lived in Ripoll, a town north of Barcelona close to French border.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack as well as a separate deadly assault hours later in the coastal resort town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.

In Cambrils, a car crashed into passersby and its occupants got out and tried to stab people. Five suspects were shot dead by police, while a Spanish woman died in the attack.

In the roughly seven hours of violence that followed the van's entry into the pedestrian boulevard of Las Ramblas on Thursday afternoon, attackers killed 15 people: 13 on Las Ramblas, the Cambrils victim and the man in the hijacked car.

Of the 120 injured on Las Ramblas, nine remain in a critical condition in hospital.

"Today the 12 names that we have always referred to are in the hands of the justice system, or sadly, as a result of their actions, have been killed," Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, told reporters, after officials confirmed that police had killed suspect Abouyaaqoub.

"But we have said that we were opening up the range of relations in the international field and this will develop in the coming weeks," he said, adding that the operation was not closed.

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