Police launch security operation ahead of Barcelona match

Minute silence to be held before match tonight in honour of attack victims

People gather at an impromptu memorial where a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. Photograph: REUTERS/Susana Vera

People gather at an impromptu memorial where a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. Photograph: REUTERS/Susana Vera

 

Police in Barcelona, who are still searching for the driver of the van that killed 13 people in Thursday’s terror attack in the city centre, have launched a massive security operation head of this evening’s football match between Barcelona FC and Real Betis.

There will be extra officers on duty around the Catalan Club Camp Nou ground ahead of the 6.15pm kick-off [Irish time] and fans can expect additional security checks.

A spokesman for Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalonia regional police force, assured supporters the security situation was adequate for the number of supporters attending and advised people to attend “calmly”.

Fans were already gathering around the area of the Camp Nou ahead of tonight’s match.

Police say they have no clues on the whereabouts of 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, who is suspected to have driven the van on Las Rambla. There is some speculation that he has crossed into France but investigators would not confirm this.

Regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero said “if we knew that he was in Spain and where, we would go after him. We don’t know where he is.”

Pilar Revilla, 75, gets emotional after hugging a Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra officer after visiting an impromptu memorial where a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. Photograph: REUTERS/Susana Vera
Pilar Revilla, 75, gets emotional after hugging a Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra officer after visiting an impromptu memorial where a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. Photograph: REUTERS/Susana Vera

The Chua family had considered cancelling their trip from Singapore to see tonight’s match but made a last minute decision to go.

“We love Barcelona and we don’t want to miss this game,” father Gerard said, adding that he bought the tickets as an anniversary present for his wife.

“I have been several times. She has never been,” he told The Irish Times. “I want to show her the beautiful people and city.”

He said he trusts the Spanish police to keep everyone safe.

“They are extremely professional.”

Native fans shared similar sentiments as they gathered in bars and tapas restaurants in the city on Sunday afternoon

“Viva la policia,” shouted one supporter at a passing police patrol in the city’s Gothic Quarter.

“Nothing stops Barcelona,” said another fan when asked if tonight’s fixture should go ahead.

A minute silence is to be held before the match tonight and the player’s shirts will have Barcelona printed on the back instead of their names.

On Saturday, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said he hopes fans will display the same spirit that was shown in Plaza de Catalunya when hundreds of people gathered in solidarity with the victims and chanted “We are not afraid.”

“They are extraordinary and lamentable circumstances,” Valverde told reporters. “We have to stand up to these circumstances and the best way is by moving forward.

“We know the way the world is, we are all potentially victims at any given moment, be it going to the metro station or going to a football ground. But it is something you can’t control and we can’t hide.”