Death toll rises in Barcelona after ISIL claimed terror attack

World Today

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/Giannis Papanikos)

A van veered onto a sidewalk and sped down a busy pedestrian zone Thursday in Barcelona’s picturesque Las Ramblas district, swerving from side to side as it mowed down tourists and residents and turned the popular European vacation spot into a bloody killing zone. Thirteen people were killed and 100 were injured, 15 of them seriously, in what authorities called a terror attack.

“It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible,” Josep Lluis Trapero, senior police official, told a news conference late Thursday.

ISIL claimed responsibility for the atack, saying in a statement on its Aamaq news agency that it was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State” in response to the extremist group’s calls for followers to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive it from Syria and Iraq.

In a statement, Spain’s president assured that today Spain is not only “united in the pain” but also have “firm will to defeat those” who want to attack “our way of life.”

Following the attack, police immediately cordoned off the city’s broad Las Rambles avenue, which is popular with tourists, and ordered stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of emergency services. A helicopter hovered over the scene.

Josep Lluis Trapero, a senior police official, told a news conference that two people had been arrested, though he said neither of them was the driver of the van.

The arrests took place in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll and in Alcanar, the site of a gas explosion at a house on Wednesday night. Police said they were investigating a possible link to Thursday’s attack.

Quoting unnamed police sources, the El Pais newspaper said the two perpetrators of the crash had been holed up in a bar on Tallers Street. Armed police ran down adjacent streets and through a market, checking into stores and cafes, presumably in search of them. Bradley Barber (@Bradley_Barber) shared a friend’s video of police searching for the suspects immediately after they fled the site of the attack.

Barcelona resident Marta Sole’ (@martassole) shared this video of the aftermath on Twitter.

The United States swiftly condemned Thursday’s deadly attack in Barcelona and offered assistance to authorities in Spain.

President Donald Trump, who remained out of public view for a second straight day, denounced what authorities are calling a terror attack in a statement on Twitter. “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” the president said.

Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the center of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrianized path in the center of the street, but cars can travel on either side.

Story includes reporting from the Associated Press