Barcelona Van Attack: How And Why It Happened

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Barcelona Van Attack: How And Why It Happened
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A horror wave takes over Europe in the wake of the Barcelona van attack that leaves more than a dozen dead.

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The terror attack has reportedly killed at least 13 people and left dozens injured, while suspected terrorists are still on the run in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

Catalan police identified the suspect who had allegedly rented the van used in thedeadly attack. Barcelona police are looking for a man with an Arabic name Driss Oukabir – unclear if he has any ties to ISIS – who is 1.70 meters tall (5’7”), wearing a white and blue striped shirt.

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A Spanish identity card with an Arabic name has reportedly been found inside the van that ploughed into a crowd of people along the busy promenade in the center of Barcelona. Two suspected terrorists are reportedly holding hostages in a nearby restaurant after the van attack.

The Barcelona van attack, which Catalan police confirmed was a terrorist attack, took place at the height of the tourist season in Barcelona, with the city attracting at least 11 million visitors a year.

The van attack in one of Europe’s most visited travel destinations comes after a series of deadly terror attacks that rocked Europe since July 2016, when a 19-ton cargo truck ran into a massive crowd of people killing 84 in the French city of Nice.

Timeline of Terrorist Attacks in Europe

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clostJune 19, 2017: a van driver ran into a crowd of pedestrians in the Finsbury Park terror attack, resulting in one death and eight injuries.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost June 3, 2017: three Islamic knifemen went on a killing spree on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market, killing eight people and injuring many others.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost May 22, 2017: an Islamist suicide bomber detonated explosive at Ariana Grande’s Manchester Arena concert, killing 22 and injuring 59 others.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost April 20, 2017: an ISIS gunman killed a policeman in a Paris shooting.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost April 7, 2017: an ISIS member drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing four and injuring 15 others.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost March 22, 2017: an ISIS member mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four and injuring many others, before going on a stabbing spree in New Palace Yard and killing a policeman.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost December 19, 2016: an ISIS perpetrator drove a truck into a crowded Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring more than 60.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost July, 2016: in three separate terrorist attacks in Germany 10 people were killed and dozens others injured in a shooting, machete attack and suicide bombing.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost July 14, 2016: an ISIS perpetrator drove a truck into a large crowd of people in Nice, killing 84 people and injuring hundreds other.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost March 22, 2016: three coordinated suicide bombings claimed by ISIS took place in the capital of Belgium, Brussels, killing 32 people and injuring more than 300 others.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost November 13, 2015: a series of terrorist attacks in Paris killed 130 people and injured hundreds of others. ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]clost January 7, 2015: two Islamic gunman killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices in the French capital. A policewoman was killed a day later.[/box]

Some 600 People Stuck in Restaurants After Barcelona Van Attack

The popularity of vehicle attacks is on the rise among terrorists. Terrorists have mowed down large crowds of people in multiple deadly attacks across Europe due to its simplicity, lethality and accessibility.

Preventing vehicle attacks such as the brutal Barcelona van attack remains a difficult task for intelligence services and police, as terrorists face no obstacles when renting vehicles in Europe.

In the Barcelona attack, the van was driven around 80 kilometers per hour, or 50 mph, according to witnesses cited by local media. The van was driven 500 meters down the busy pedestrian stretch of road in Las Ramblas, one of the busiest streets in Barcelona.

Some 600 people are reportedly stuck inside restaurants nearby, with Catalan police not giving them permission to go outside while the terrorist suspect is on the run. Local media outlets reported that two gunman took hostages to a Turkish restaurant nearby.

Spain is a ‘Good Place to Hide’ for ISIS Terrorists

Several websites such as Heavy are reporting that ISIS channels claimed responsibility for the Barcelona van attack. It would not be the first time ISIS has acted on Spanish soil, as earlier this year police in Barcelona arrested multiple individuals suspected in ties with the Islamic State Brussels-Paris cell. In June, Spanish police made a few more terrorism-related arrests on the island of Mallorca. According to Tom Rogan, a contributor at the Washington Examiner, Spain is “favored by jihadists as a staging location because it is seen as a good place to hide.” Mr. Rogan added that ISIS cells operating in Europe are “highly skilled at evading detection and in attack plotting.”

According to multiple reports by eyewitnesses in Barcelona, Catalan police was going door-to-door in search for suspects. One man has been arrested in connection with the bloody attack, local authorities confirmed to the media more than two hours after the van attack.

ISIS Channels Celebrating Deadly Attack

Spanish police fears the suspects may carry out more terrorist attacks across the country after the Barcelona van attack. Local authorities have urged people to avoid Las Ramblas, a busy tree-lined promenade in the center of the city, with Catalan emergency services demanding authorities to shut down metro and train station as gunmen remain at large.

Catalan police have set up roadblocks around the central part of Barcelona amid disturbing reports that a second van was involved in the van attack and fled the scene. Local media cited witnesses as saying that all nearby shops were evacuated.

It remains unclear how many hostages were taken by suspected terrorists after the Barcelona van attack, though reports indicate that the central street of Las Ramblas was particularly busy when the attack occurred on Thursday evening.

While ISIS has not formally claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, its channels are reportedly celebrating the terrifying atrocity. In November 2016, nearly a month prior to the Christmas market attack that killed 12 people in Berlin, an ISIS magazine article urged jihadists to carry out attacks in lone wolf operations using vehicles to crash into crowds of people and to carry a secondary weapon.

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Polina Tikhonova is a writer, journalist and a certified translator. Over the past 7 years, she has worked for a wide variety of top European, American, Russian, and Ukrainian media outlets. Polina holds a Master's Degree in English Philology from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Saint Petersburg State University. Her articles and news reports have been published by many newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs and online media sources across the globe. Polina is fluent in English, German, Ukrainian and Russian.
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