Van mows down crowd in Barcelona, 13 killed

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People leave a fastfood with hands up as asked by policemen after a van plowed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on Thursday. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street. — AFP

BARCELONA — A van plowed into crowds in the Spanish city of Barcelona on Thursday and a regional official said 13 people were killed, in what police said they were treating as a terrorist attack.

Police said they had arrested a man linked to the attack in the heart of the city, but did not identify him or describe his role. Earlier police were searching for the van's driver who, according to local media, fled the scene on foot.

Witnesses saying the van zigzagged down one of Barcelona's busiest tourist avenues, Las Ramblas, mowing down pedestrians and leaving bodies strewn across the ground.

A government official in the region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, said on Twitter that at least 50 people were injured.

An official source of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the Kingdom’s denunciation in the strongest words of the suicide explosion in Nigeria and a van mowing pedestrians in Barcelona, Spain, killing and injuring scores of innocents, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Thursday night.
The source offered condolences to the families and friends of the victims, the governments and people of each of Nigeria and Spain, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.
He confirmed the stance of the Kingdom by the side of the two countries against all kinds of terrorism and extremism, calling on the world community to exert a more concerted effort to get rid of the epidemic of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s embassy in Madrid is following with concern the incident in Barcelona, Spain where a van mowed down crowds of pedestrians on Thursday afternoon, killing and injuring scores of innocents, Prince Mansour Bin Khaled Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Spain stated Thursday.
The Saudi Embassy is following and searching with the Spanish authorities including the police stations and surrounding hospitals to look for any Saudi victims of the incident so as to provide them with immediate assistance.
He called on male and female Saudi citizens in Barcelona to exercise caution, cooperate with the Spanish security authorities and follow the instructions. They should keep away from crowded tourist sites and remain in their residences.
The embassy called on Saudi citizens to contact it in case they needed help by dialing the following telephone numbers: Madrid 0034672538005; and Barcelona 0034690011111; 0034666300599; and 0034626006063.
Eyewitness 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.

Spanish media had also reported that two armed men were holed up in a bar in downtown Barcelona, and reported gunfire in the area, However, police later dismissed those reports.

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter: "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!"

Mobile phone footage showed several bodies strewn along the Ramblas, some motionless. Paramedics and bystanders bent over them, treating them and trying to comfort those still conscious.

Around them, the boulevard was deserted, covered in rubbish and abandoned objects including hats, flip-flops, bags and a pram.

"We saw a white van collide with people. We saw people going flying because of the collision, we also saw three cyclists go flying," Ellen Vercamm, on holiday in Barcelona, told El Pais newspaper.

Emergency services said people should not go to the area around Barcelona's Placa de Catalunya, one of the city's main squares at the top of the Ramblas, and requested the closure of nearby train and metro stations.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was in contact with authorities, and the priority was to attend to the injured.

The incident took place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, which is one of Europe's top travel destinations with at least 11 million visitors a year.

Vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of militant attacks across Europe since July 2016, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose nation has suffered some of Europe's deadliest militant attacks in recent years, tweeted: "All my thoughts and France's solidarity to the victims of the tragic attack in Barcelona." In a tweet expressing solidarity he said: "We remain united and determined," while describing it as a "tragic attack".

Witness Ethan Spibey told Britain's Sky News: "People just started running screaming, there were loud bangs. People just started running into shops, there was a kind of mini-stampede where we were, down one of the alleyways."

He said he had taken refuge with dozens of other people in a nearby church. "They've locked the doors because I'm not sure whether the person who may have done it has actually been caught."

Authorities in Vic, a small town outside Barcelona, said a van had been found there in connection with the attack. Spanish media had earlier reported that a second van had been hired as a getaway vehicle.

Barcelona is the capital of the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia, which plans to hold a popular vote on Oct. 1 on whether it should secede from Spain. It is in dispute with the central government, which says the vote cannot go ahead because it is unconstitutional.

The attack was the deadliest in Spain since March 2004, when militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.

The White House has said Trump — who is on a working vacation at his private golf club in New Jersey — is being updated on developments by chief of staff John Kelly.

Trump's wife, first lady Melania Trump, tweeted her "thoughts and prayers" to Barcelona before the president.

Britain "stands with Spain against terror", Prime Minister Theresa May said, adding, "My thoughts are with the victims of today's terrible attack in Barcelona and the emergency services responding to this ongoing incident. The UK stands with Spain against terror," she wrote on Twitter.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was "concerned and saddened" by the attack on Las Ramblas, a busy shopping street popular with tourists. "Our thoughts are with those affected. Doing all we can to identify whether Brits need help," he wrote on Twitter.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the British capital "stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism". "My thoughts are with the victims of this barbaric terrorist attack in the great city of Barcelona and with their brave emergency services," he tweeted.

The office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday condemned the "revolting attack" in Barcelona. "We are thinking with profound sadness of the victims of the revolting attack in Barcelona — with solidarity and friendship alongside the Spanish people," tweeted spokesman Steffen Seibert. — Reuters

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