22 Aug 2017

Spanish police shoot dead suspected Barcelona attacker

6:16 am on 22 August 2017

Spanish police have shot dead the main suspect in the deadly Barcelona van attack, Younes Abouyaaqoub.

Bomb squad police at the site where Moroccan suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub was shot on 21 August 2017.

Ending a five-day manhunt, police tracked Younes Abouyaaqoub to a rural area near Barcelona. They said they shot him after he held up what appeared to be an explosives belt. Photo: AFP

Police believe the 22-year-old was the driver of the van that careered down the Las Ramblas avenue, killing 13 and injuring more than 100 others.

He was killed some 40km west of Barcelona near a petrol station following a tip-off.

Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, has emerged as the main suspect in the Barcelona attack

Younes Abouyaaqoub Photo: AFP / Mossos D'Esquadra

Abouyaaqoub, wearing a fake explosive belt, is reported to have shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest").

An extensive manhunt was already under way when police closed in on the Subirats area, close to Sant Sadurní d'Anoia.

Bomb disposal officers went to the scene and used a robot to examine the fake explosive belt.

At an earlier news conference, police said Abouyaaqoub first fled Las Ramblas on foot amid the chaos of Thursday's attack, then hijacked a car, stabbing the driver, Pau Perez, to death before crashing through a police checkpoint.

Mr Pérez, 34, from Vila Franca, become the 15th victim of the Barcelona bloodshed and a later attack in the resort of Cambrils.

A woman died in Cambrils when a car was driven into pedestrians and five suspected jihadists were killed at the scene by police. Catalan officials said that all 15 victims had now been identified and their families notified.

Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 alleged accomplices still at large. In addition to the five suspects killed in Cambrils, four others are under arrest. Two sets of human remains are yet to be identified from a house that blew up last Wednesday night in the town of Alcanar, south of Barcelona.

Police said there was solid evidence to believe that an imam thought by police to have helped radicalise his young conspirators, Abdelbaki Es Satty, was killed in the blast.

A policewoman in front of dozens of gas bottles in Alcanar during a search linked to the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks.

A policewoman in front of dozens of gas bottles in Alcanar during a search linked to the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks. Photo: AFP

About 120 butane gas cylinders were found there. Police believe the pair was preparing a much larger attack with explosives, but the blast prompted the other militants to adopt a new, less elaborate plan.

Abouyaaqoub began showing more religiously conservative behaviour within the past year, according to family members in Morocco. He refused to shake hands with women during a visit to his birthplace in March, they said.

Abouyaaqoub's brother El Houssaine and first cousins Mohamed and Omar Hychami were among those killed by police in Cambrils. They were all originally from the small Moroccan town of Mrirt.

Family members of the dead suspects said they believed Imam Es Satty had radicalised several young people in their home town of Ripoll, north of Barcelona.

Spanish media outlets say he had spent some time in prison, and had met prisoners involved or linked with the 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people died.

He had also stayed in Belgium for some three months last year, where he had been searching for work, including in Vilvoorde, a small town of just 42,000 from which more than 20 jihadists departed for Syria in 2014.

- Reuters

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