The Islamic state has claimed responsibility for the killing of 13 persons, when a van ploughed through a crowd in a busy Barcelona tourist district on Thursday. About 100 people were injured in the incident.
ISIS made the claim via Amaq News Agency, as two men were arrested, just as Catalan Police also confirmed the attack as terrorism.
One of those arrested is thought to include the driver of the van used in the attack, while Spanish media have also published a picture of a man police sources say rented the van.
Authorities named him as Driss Oukabir, a 28-year-old born in Morocco who lives in Catalunya.
Security sources told El Pais that Oukabir had recently visited Morocco and arrived back in Barcelona earlier this week.
Witnesses said the white van zigzagged at high speed down Las Ramblas, a busy avenue thronged with tourists, knocking down pedestrians and leaving bodies strewn across the ground.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said: “The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states” – a reference to a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.
If the involvement of Islamist militants is confirmed, it would be the latest in a string of attacks in the past 13 months in which they have used vehicles to bring carnage to the streets of European cities.
That modus operandi – crude, deadly and very hard to prevent – has killed well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.
Witness Tom Gueller told the BBC: “I heard screams and a bit of a crash and then I just saw the crowd parting and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas and I immediately knew that it was a terrorist attack or something like that.
“It wasn’t slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds,” he added.
It was the deadliest attack in Spain since March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Twitter he was en route to Barcelona. “Maximum coordination to arrest the attackers, reinforce security and attend to all those affected,” he said.
The Spanish royal household said on Twitter: “They are murderers, nothing more than criminals who are not going to terrorize us. All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will go back to being everyone’s.”
U.S. President Donald Trump said: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help.”
He added: “Be tough & strong, we love you!”