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Barcelona terror attack: 13 dead, over 100 injured as van rams into crowd; ISIS claims responsibility

A white van jumped the sidewalk Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district.

Edited by: India TV News Desk, Barcelona [ Updated: August 18, 2017 7:05 IST ]
Barcelona terror attack
Barcelona terror attack

In one of the deadliest attacks in Spain since 2004, capital city Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district was shattered on Thursday when a white van crashed into a summer crowd of residents and tourists leaving at least 13 people dead and over 100 injured. The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed the responsibility for the attack. Police said they had arrested two suspects after the assault, the latest in a wave of vehicle rampages across Europe in recent years. The IS propaganda agency Amaq claimed that "soldiers" from the jihadist group carried out the attack, according to the Site Intelligence Group which monitors Islamist websites.

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that there is no report of any Indian casualty, adding that she is in constant touch with the Indian Embassy in Spain. 

Swaraj also retweeted emergency numbers in Barcelona given by the Indian Embassy.

The afternoon attack in the northeastern Spanish city was the country’s deadliest since 2004, when al-Qaida-inspired bombers killed 192 people in coordinated attacks on Madrid’s commuter trains.

It left victims sprawled out in the street, spattered with blood or crippled by broken limbs. Others fled in panic, screaming or carrying young children in their arms. As witnesses and emergency workers tried to help the wounded, police brandishing hand guns launched a search of side streets looking for suspects.

Police immediately cordoned off the city’s broad avenue 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.

Police evacuated stores on the sprawling avenue where scores of people had taken cover.

State-owned broadcaster RTVE reported that investigators think two vans were used — one for the attack and a second as a getaway vehicle.

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, pedestrian path in the center of the street while cars can travel on either side.

A taxi driver who witnessed the attack, Oscar Cano, told TV3 the van jumped onto the central pedestrian area at a high speed and swerved from side to side.

Tamara Jurgen, a Dutch visitor who had just arrived, said she and a friend were inside a Zara clothing store steps from Placa Catalunya when the attacker drove down Las Ramblas. They were held inside for more than two hours until police cleared that block.

“Everyone was screaming and running. We had to run up to the roof and throw our bags over a wall. We were all together along this (3-meter, 10-foot) wall and we were scared we were going to have to jump,” she said.

Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, was watching TV in his building just off Las Ramblas when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony.

“I saw women and children just running and they looked terrified,” he said.

He said there was a bang — possibly from someone rolling down a store shutter — and more people ran by. Then police arrived and pushed everyone a full block away. Even people leaning out of doors were being told to go back inside, he said.

Fleming said regular police with guns drawn and riot police were at the end of his block.

“It’s just kind of a tense situation,” Fleming said.

Carol Augustin, a manager at La Palau Moja, an 18th-century place on Las Ramblas that houses offices and a tourism center, said the van passed right in front of the building.

“We saw everything. People started screaming and running into the office. It was such a chaotic situation. There were families with children. The police made us close the doors and wait inside,” she said.

In the years since the 2004 Madrid bombings, Spanish authorities have reported arresting nearly 200 jihadis, but the only deadly attacks were claimed by the Basque separatist group ETA. Those ETA bombings in the past decade claimed five lives in all.

Condolences and offers of help poured in from Spain’s allies.

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote 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!”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered assistance to authorities in Spain and said U.S. diplomats in Spain were helping Americans there. He vowed the United States would never relent in tracking down terror suspects and holding them to account.

“Terrorists around the world should know that the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice,” Tillerson said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. “stands with Spain against terror” while France’s president and the mayors of Paris and Nice are among the French dignitaries offering support for Barcelona after a deadly van attack.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Thursday evening: “All my thoughts and solidarity from France for the victims of the tragic attack in Barcelona. We will remain united and determined.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “this cowardly attack has deliberately targeted those enjoying life and sharing time with family and friends. We will never be cowed by such barbarism.”

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