Police have shot and killed the chief suspect behind last week’s deadly van attack in Barcelona, authorities say.
Younes Abouyaaqoub, who allegedly killed more than a dozen people by ramming a van down a popular boulevard in Barcelona, was found in Subirats, a town 45 kilometres west of the Spanish city, said Catalan police. It was the first of two vehicle attacks that struck the region on Thursday.
Abouyaaqoub was wearing a fake explosives belt, according to Reuters, and was spotted after a local man saw a car driving across his family’s vineyard, according to the man’s daughter.
Roser Ventura said police told them to immediately leave the Ventura Soler cava vineyard.
“We heard a helicopter flying around and many police cars coming toward the gas station” near the property, she told The Associated Press.
Fake explosive belts were also found on the five attackers police killed during the second vehicle attack in Cambrils.
The death toll in Barcelona rose to 14 on Monday, bringing the total for Spain’s recent dual attacks to 15. The attack in Cambrils claimed the life of one woman.
Earlier Monday, Spanish police had extended the search for the 22-year-old Moroccan-born man, to all of Europe, as details emerged of how he allegedly fled on foot through the streets of the old town before disappearing.
Joaquim Forn, in charge of home affairs in the northeastern Spanish region, confirmed that police are almost certain Abouyaaqoub was the driver.
“Everything points to that,” he told Catalan radio.
Police release photos, ask for the public’s help in search for Barcelona van attacker Younes Abouyaaqoub. Manhunt expanded to all of Europe. pic.twitter.com/EAWUouWVq2
Authorities also raided more homes overnight in Ripoll, a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees and close to France where many of the suspects in a 12-strong cell thought to be behind the attack had lived.
Others thought to be part of the suspected Islamist militant network have been arrested, shot by police or killed in an explosion at a house in Catalonia a day before Thursday’s van attack.
Abouyaaqoub abandoned the van after zig-zagging down Las Ramblas avenue at high speed, police have said. Witnesses had seen him walking away unarmed from the scene, they said.
Spanish papers El Pais and La Vanguardia said they had seen images of the man leaving Las Ramblas then crossing through La Boqueria food market, another tourist attraction, before disappearing.
El Pais published CCTV footage on Monday of a man wearing a black and white shirt similar to the one Abouyaaqoub wore when he was caught on a bank security camera the night before the attacks.
Stabbed in car
The attack in Barcelona was linked to another hours later in Cambrils, farther down the Mediterranean coastline from Barcelona. A car crashed into passersby there and attackers got out to try to stab people. Five suspects were shot dead, while a Spanish woman died later in hospital.
The two attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils left 14 people dead. That rose to 15 on Monday after police found Pau Perez, 34, stabbed to death in a car they believe Abouyaaqoub hijacked.
Spanish political leaders from all the main parties were also due to meet later on Monday to review security measures as part of cross-party efforts to unite on anti-terrorist efforts.