Thursday 23 November 2017

Barcelona terror group investigation 'could take months or even years' to go to trial

  • Four suspected Barcelona attack plotters appear in court
  • Four men are the only ones still alive among the 12 men thought to constitute terror group
  • Judge conducts investigation that could take months or even years before trial is organised
A policeman hugs to a boy and his family that he helped during the terrorist attack, at a memorial to the victims on Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain, Monday Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)
A policeman hugs to a boy and his family that he helped during the terrorist attack, at a memorial to the victims on Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain, Monday Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)
Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Armed policemen walk on a road near Subirats, Spain, during an operation Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
An ambulance stretcher is pushed on the road where Police bomb squad members work by a road near Subirats, Spain, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A funeral van is parked in the place where Younes Abouyaaqoub, the man suspected of driving the van that killed 13 people in Barcelona last week, was killed by police in Subirats, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea
People stand next to candles and flowers placed on the ground, after a terror attack that left many killed and wounded in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The lone fugitive from the Spanish cell that killed 15 people in and near Barcelona was shot to death Monday after he flashed what turned out to be a fake suicide belt at two troopers who confronted him in a vineyard just outside the city he terrorized, authorities said. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

Adrian Croft

Four men accused of being members of an Islamist cell behind a van attack that killed 13 people in Barcelona last week appeared in court on Tuesday, a day after the alleged driver was shot dead by police.

The four, the only ones still alive among the 12 men thought to constitute the group, were brought from Barcelona to Madrid where they were taken to the High Court under tight security for the hearing.

Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Police on Monday shot dead 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, who they had identified as the driver of the van that careered along the packed Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona on Thursday, leaving a trail of dead and 120 injured from 34 countries.

After the attack, Abouyaaqoub escaped on foot, stabbing to death a man who was parking his car and fleeing in the vehicle.

Forensic policemen arrive in the cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Forensic policemen arrive in the cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The van that ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others is towed away from the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The van that ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others is towed away from the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo:AFP/Getty Images
The van who ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others is seen momnets before being towed away from the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The van who ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others is towed away from the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Policemen check the area after towing away the van which ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others on the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Tourists wait for the police to allow them to come back to their hotel on the Rambla boulevard after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others is towed away from the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Screengrab taken with permission from video posted on twitter by @pawilerma of the scene in Las Ramblas, Barcelona after several people have been injured after a van crashed on a pavement in a popular tourist area of the Spanish city. Pawi Lerma/PA Wire
Police and emergency services attend to injured persons at the scene after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained from social media. Courtesy of @Vil_Music/via REUTERS
Injured people are treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. (AP Photo/Oriol Duran)
Injured people are treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. (AP Photo/Oriol Duran)
An injured person is carried in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. (AP Photo/Oriol Duran)
An injured person is carried in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. (AP Photo/Oriol Duran)
A still image from video shows a police officer gesturing while walking across a road, after a van crashed into people in the centre of Barcelona, Spain, August 17, 2017. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
People flee the scene in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. (AP Photo/Oriol Duran)
People move from the scene after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained from social media. Courtesy of McKenzie Tavoda/via REUTERS
A still image from video shows a police officer ushering people away on a street, after a van crashed into people in the centre of Barcelona, Spain, August 17, 2017. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
People run away after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained from social media. Courtesy of INSTAGRAM / @c.artisan/via REUTERS
A still image from video shows a police cordon on a street in Barcelona, Spain following a van crash August 17, 2017. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
People run away after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained from social media. Courtesy of INSTAGRAM / @pavel_lisovtsov/via REUTERS
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Vil_Music of the scene in Las Ramblas, Barcelona after several people have been injured after a van crashed on a pavement in a popular tourist area of the Spanish city. Vil_Music/PA Wire
Police officers tell members of the public to leave the scene in a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona say a white van has jumped the sidewalk in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, injuring several people. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Armed police officers patrol an empty street, after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained from social media. Courtesy of INSTAGRAM / @pavel_lisovtsov/via REUTERS
A police officer cordon off a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona say a white van has jumped the sidewalk in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, injuring several people. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Armed police officers patrol an empty street, after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained from social media. Courtesy of INSTAGRAM / @pavel_lisovtsov/via REUTERS
Police officers tell members of the public to leave the scene in a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Mossos d'Esquadra officers (Catalan Regional Police) stand guard in front of Civil Guard headquarters during a protest in Barcelona, Spain July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
People walk by Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain August 16, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
Screengrab taken with permission from video posted on twitter by @pawilerma of the scene in Las Ramblas, Barcelona after several people have been injured after a van crashed on a pavement in a popular tourist area of the Spanish city. Pawi Lerma/PA Wire

Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia said on Tuesday he walked some 40 km (25 miles) from Sant Just Desvern, the town on the outskirts of Barcelona where he ditched the hijacked car, to Subirats, where he was shot dead.

Abouyaaqoub, who had changed clothes, walked by night and hid during the day, the paper said citing sources involved in the investigation.

Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina

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

In Cambrils, a car rammed into passers-by and its occupants got out and tried to stab people. The five assailants were shot dead by police, while a Spanish woman died in the attack.

Most of the 12 suspects lived in the town of Ripoll, set in forested hills beneath the Pyrenees north of Barcelona near the French border, and most were young men of Moroccan descent.

One of those who appeared before investigating magistrate Fernando Andreu was Driss Oukabir, whose passport was found in the abandoned van after the Barcelona attack. He turned himself in to police, protesting his innocence and saying his younger brother Moussa Oukabir, 17, who was killed in Cambrils, had stolen his documents.

Also in court was Mohammed Aalla, owner of the Audi car used in the Cambrils attack. One of his brothers, Said, was killed in Cambrils and a second, Youssef, is believed by police to have died in an explosion at a house used by the plotters at Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, the day before the Barcelona attack.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, arrested after being hurt in the blast at Alcanar, also appeared in court as did Salah el Karib, who ran an internet cafe in Ripoll that, according to La Vanguardia newspaper, was used to send money to Morocco.

At Tuesday's closed-door hearing, Andreu planned to read out charges against the men expected to include counts of terrorism, murder and weapons possession. Andreu was then to ask the accused if they wish to testify, in which case he would question them.

The hearing was likely to end in the suspects being remanded in custody while the judge conducts an investigation that could take months or even years before a trial is organised.

A Ripoll imam who police suspect may have radicalised the young men, Abdelbaki Es Satty, is believed to have died in the explosion in Alcanar. Police believe the blast foiled the group's plans for a much bigger attack using explosives.

Reuters

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