Spotlight: Hunt for van attack driver continues as shock, grief linger in Spain

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-21 11:42:30|Editor: Yamei
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Toys, flowers and candles are placed on the avenue to mourn for victims in the terrorist attacks in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 19, 2017. The Spanish government decided to maintain its anti-terrorism alert level at 4 but pledged to reinforce security measures at the same time, the Interior Ministry said Saturday in a statement. A total of 14 fatalities occurred in two terrorist attacks in the Spanish cities of Barcelona and Cambrils that also hurt about 126 people of 34 different nationalities. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)

BARCELONA, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Spanish police have admitted they still "do not know with precision" the whereabouts of the man thought to have driven the van that killed 13 people and injured more than 100 others in the popular Las Ramblas area of Barcelona.

Police have also been suspecting 45-year-old Abdelbaki es Satti, an imam from the town of Ripoll, north of Barcelona, was the mastermind of the terror cell that carried out the attack in Barcelona Thursday night and another one in the Catalan seaside resort of Cambrils hours later.

Five people attacked people at random Friday morning in Cambrils, in which a woman was killed.

Amid lingering grief, Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia attended a mass for "Peace and Concord" held in Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica Sunday in memory of the victims of the twin attacks.


Authorities are "unable to confirm" the hypothesis that 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, a Moroccan national, was the van driver, whose whereabouts remain unknown, according to Lluis Trapero, a Catalan police officer.

As of now, three terrorists have been identified, Trapero added.

"If we knew he was in Spain and we knew where, we would go and get him. We don't know where he is," said Trapero.

Trapero said the two bodies found in the town of Alcaner, south of Barcelona, probably belonged to two of the people police are still searching for. "We can think that at least two (of the three) are dead."

Meanwhile, it is thought that Satti is responsible for radicalizing the members of the terrorist cell launching the attacks. He was described by El Mundo newspaper as "solitary, reserved and almost hermit-like."

He was found to have left when Catalan regional police searched his flat in the wake of the attacks. It is unknown whether Satti was killed in an explosion late Wednesday in Alcaner.

Satti spent nearly two years in jail for drug trafficking and was released in January 2012. During his imprisonment, he was reported to develop a "special friendship" with Rachid Aglif, who was serving an 18-year sentence for his part in the Atocha train bombing in March 2004, which killed more than 190 people in southern Madrid.

Satti moved to Ripoll two years ago and reportedly spent his time between his home, a shared flat of just 30 square meters, and a mosque.


Julian Cadman, 7, with dual British-Australian nationality was killed in the Barcelona attack, police confirmed Sunday. His mother, who was injured in the attack, was in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

Besides the deaths, the two attacks have left about 126 people of 34 different nationalities injured.

The Spanish government decided to maintain its anti-terrorism alert level at four, and pledged to reinforce security measures at the same time, the Interior Ministry said Saturday in a statement.

Meanwhile, the police officer who shot and killed four terrorists in the terror attack in Cambrils is suffering from a "severe emotional shock," El Mundo reported Sunday.

The officer, dubbed as "the Hero of Cambrils," a former member of the Spanish Foreign Legion, is receiving help from police psychologists specialized in this kind of trauma, the report said.

The report said the female officer had volunteered to do extra hours to help tighten control in the wake of the Barcelona massacre hours before.

The authorities are doing everything possible to hide the identity of the officer, as they believe it is fundamental to protect the family of the officer from possible reprisals by terror groups. The Islamic State (IS) terror group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.


Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, together with hundreds of people -- locals and tourists -- attended a mass for "Peace and Concord" in Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica on Sunday. Cardinal-Archbishop Jose Omella urged the society to be "artisans for peace," saying that "unity makes us strong, while division ... destroys us."

He read a message from Pope Francis, saying that it was a "grave sin" to attack "the lives of people who are the same as you, innocent people and children."

A march will be held on Aug. 26 through Barcelona to show the city's rejection of terrorism.

The march will be under the banner "No tinc por" (I am not afraid), which was also chanted during Friday's homage to the victims of the attacks held in Plaza Catalunya.

On the other side of the Mediterranean, the family of the Moroccan suspects said they are "in shock" at the news that two of their sons were implicated in terror attacks in Spain.

Moussa Oukabir, 17, was among the five men shot dead after stabbing pedestrians in Cambrils. His brother, Driss Oukabir, 27, was arrested in Ripoll hours after the van attack.

In an interview with the Moroccan news site, Said Oukabir said his son was "normal," and he had visited his family in Morocco a month earlier, and "no sign of change appeared in him."

"We were preparing for a wedding before the news came. Our family's name became everywhere in the media worldwide, and the photos of Moussa and his brother became viral on social media," members of the family said.

The father expressed the family's solidarity with the victims of the attacks, adding that what his sons did is a sin that will be borne by the family forever.

In a statement on Sunday, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and conveyed his most sincere condolences to the families of the victims while wishing those wounded a speedy recovery.

He expressed AU's solidarity with the people and the government of Spain, calling on the international community to persist in the efforts to prevent violent extremism.