Barcelona attack: police hunt 18-year-old Moussa Oukabir

Security services search for younger brother of man arrested on suspicion of hiring van

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says that the van attack in the Catalan city of Barcelona that killed at least 13 people was "jihadist terrorism" which required a global response. Video: Reuters

 

Officers seeking Spanish police investigating the Barcelona terrorist attack are hunting an 18-year-old man who is suspected of driving the van that ploughed along Las Ramblas on Thursday, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 100.

Police sources told Spanish media they were looking for Moussa Oukabir, the younger brother of Driss Oukabir, who was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of hiring the van used in the attack.

Driss Oukabir has denied involvement and is reported to have told police that his identity documents were stolen before they were used to obtain the vehicle.

Catalan police reportedly believe Moussa Oukabir fled the scene of the attack by road and is still on the run.

A spokeswoman for the force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said officers were not officially naming any suspects as they continued their inquiries. She said official updates would continue to appear on the force’s Twitter account.

Little is known about Moussa Oukabir, who is thought to have turned 18 very recently. However, attention has already focused on comments he made on the social media site Kiwi.

Asked what he would do on his first day if he became absolute ruler of the world, he replied: “Kill the unbelievers and leave only Muslims who follow their religion.” Asked in which country he would never contemplate living, he answered: “The Vatican. ”

Police have arrested four people, including Driss Oukabir, in connection with the Las Ramblas attack.

Police have also said they are looking for suspects they have named as Said Aallaa, Mohamed Hychami and Younes Abauyaaqoub.

(L-R, up down) Moussa Oukabir, the suspected driver, as well as Said Aallaa, Mohamed Hychami and Younes Abauyaaqoub, who are suspects wanted in connection with the terrorist attacks in the Catalonian cities of Barcelona and Cambrils. Photograph: EPA/Spanish police
(L-R, up down) Moussa Oukabir, the suspected driver, as well as Said Aallaa, Mohamed Hychami and Younes Abauyaaqoub, who are suspects wanted in connection with the terrorist attacks in the Catalonian cities of Barcelona and Cambrils. Photograph: EPA/Spanish police

State of shock

Jordi Munell, the mayor of Ripoll, where both brothers lived, said the town was in a state of shock following the events of Thursday and Friday.

“We know the police are looking for [Moussa Oukabir] but we don’t know if he’s among the people who’ve been arrested,” he said.

“The police have been checking all the homes connected with the family today. People here are just really surprised. Ripoll is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else.

“We don’t understand how people we’ve been living side-by-side with could be involved in terrorism and nor do their families. These are people that people have been to school with and played football with.”

The carnage in Barcelona was followed by a similar attack south-west of the city in the early hours of Friday, which killed one person and left five other bystanders and a police officer injured.

Five suspected terrorists were shot dead by Spanish police in the coastal town of Cambrils after they drove into pedestrians. Some of the suspects wore what appeared to be explosive belts, later found to be fake.

The attack in Cambrils concluded a day of violence along the Catalan coast, which the police said was the work of a terrorist cell determined to “kill as many people as possible”.

Bodies on the ground

Video footage from Cambrils 120km from Barcelona, showed three bodies on the ground in the town’s port. The police urged residents to stay indoors and later carried out controlled blasts on suspected explosive devices.

Fitzroy Davies, from Wolverhampton, was caught up in the second attack in Cambrils and saw one of the attackers being shot by police. He told the BBC that he had seen people running into the bar where he was as the assault unfolded.

“This guy came running up the road and was shouting something. I didn’t know what it was, so we said call the police.

“Within 30 seconds the police was [SIC]already there, jumped out of the car, started shouting at the guy; the guy was then saying something else again.

“And then they – ‘pop, pop’ – did a couple of shots and he fell down.

“He stood back up and then he stepped over the fence and he started, he was taunting, smiling and he carried on walking to the police, and then they gave it to him again, a couple more shots and then he fell to the ground.”

Some members of the cell are thought to have blown themselves up in the early hours of Thursday morning while trying to assemble a bomb in a house in another coastal town, Alcanar Platja, 160kms south along the coast from Barcelona.

One person was killed and another wounded in an initial explosion that destroyed the house. Police and firefighters who came to the scene were wounded by a second blast.

Explosions

The Alcanar explosions were initially reported to have been caused by gas cylinders. The alleged link with a terrorist cell was revealed by the police only after the Barcelona attack.

At 5pm on Thursday a white Fiat van veered off the road and into a crowd on to the pedestrian section of Las Ramblas, the popular and celebrated Barcelona thoroughfare.

The van drove through groups of people, sending pedestrians and cyclists flying, and stopped over a mosaic by the artist Joan Miró. Of the 100 victims injured in the Barcelona attack, 15 were said to be in serious condition.

Streets and parking garages were combed for other vans thought to have been rented by the suspected terror group.

A second van – presumed to be a getaway vehicle – which had been hired at the same time as the Fiat from the Telefurgo rental company in Sabadell, near Barcelona, was found 80kms away in Vic an hour and a half later.

According to Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, postmortem examinations have already been carried out on the bodies of the people who died in Barcelona. DNA samples have been taken and dental examinations will follow.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, boasting on a website: “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the Land of Andalusia. ” The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said the whole country stood in solidarity with Barcelona, blaming “jihadi terrorism”.

Links to jihadism

Javier Zaragoza, the chief prosecutor of the Audiencia Nacional, which deals with terrorism cases, said the attackers did not appear to have previous links to jihadism.

“As far as we know, there was no previous investigation that might have identified them,” he told the Cadena Ser radio station. “Zero-risk doesn’t exist when it comes to these things. The anti-terror police services have done really good work for years and various attacks have been prevented.”

At midday local time, thousands of people gathered in Barcelona’s main square for a minute’s silence to remember the dead. Among those in attendance were King Felipe, Rajoy, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan regional president, and Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona.

At the end of the minute’s silence, the crowd broke into applause and chanted

“No tinc por”, or “I am not afraid”.

Meanwhile the mayor of the French city of Nice, where dozens were mown down a year ago by an attacker driving a truck, has said he will meet his European counterparts next month to see how they can improve security in the aftermath of the Barcelona attack.

Eighty-six people were killed in the jihadist attack in the French Riviera city, the first of several similar incidents in Europe.

“I am convinced that life will prevail over death and that we will triumph over barbarism and terror,” Christian Estrosi told reporters after honouring Barcelona’s victims on the Promenade des Anglais where dozens died on Bastille Day last year.

“It’s obvious that it is the mayors – be it in Berlin, London, Paris, Nice, Barcelona or Stockholm – that are the first to be confronted with this violence and who manage these public areas ... but we are not the ones who take part in the big national and European reforms,” he said.

Mr Estrosi said he had taken the difficult decision to spend €30million from his budget to protect potential target areas in Nice from possible vehicle attacks, adding that cities needed more money to cope with the new threats.

He said the mayors of a number of cities, which he did not name, would meet in Nice on September 28-29th with Julian King, the European commissioner in charge of security issues.

They will discuss ways to improve the situation and review national and European legislation and proposals that were at times too restrictive. “We won’t win the war with the rules of peace,” Mr Estrosi said.

The Guardian