Barcelona attack: Police name driver suspected of killing 13 people, injuring over 120 others

The van who ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others is towed away from the Rambla in Barcelona on August 18, 2017. (Photo: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

BARCELONA, Spain — The man suspected of killing 13 people and injuring over 120 others when he plowed his van into crowds of people in Barcelona on Thursday has been identified by Catalan authorities as Younes Abouyaaqoub.

Abouyaaqoub, who remains at large, was the only driver of the van, according to Catalan Interior Minister Joaquim Form.

Police have been hunting for Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national, since the attack but had not confirmed him as the driver of the van that hit crowds of people on Las Ramblas in Barcelona in the early evening on Thursday.

Police told a news conference Monday that Abouyaaqoub fled the scene of the attack on foot and hijacked a car to escape.

Police fired on the car after it rammed through a checkpoint Thursday night but Abouyaaqoub was able to flee a second time. The car’s owner, named as Pau Perez, was found stabbed to death in the vehicle. He becomes the 15th victim of the attack.

Spain’s Ministry of Interior tweeted a CCTV photo of Abouyaaqoub Monday, asking for it to be shared on social media.

Speaking to local radio Monday, Form said all the evidence pointed to Abouyaaqoub being the driver and that security services were working with other agencies around Europe to find him.

Police carried out more raids overnight at homes in the town of Ripoll, where many of the suspects in the attack lived, Forn said, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, Catalonia Police Chief Josep Luis Trapero told reporters that he could not confirm whether Abouyaaqoub had already crossed the French border.

“If we knew that he was in Spain and where, we would go after him,” Trapero said Sunday. “We don’t know where he is.”

Abouyaaqoub is one of 12 terror suspects linked to the Barcelona attack who did not have previous records or intelligence files related to terrorism, according to Trapero.

On Saturday, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoida said that the terror cell believed to be responsible for the attack on Las Ramblas and Cambrils, which left one dead and six injured, had been “completely dismantled.”

Three of the five suspects killed by police in Cambrils were identified by a Catalan police spokesman as Moussa Oukabir, Said Aallaa and Mohamed Hychami.

Eight of the 12 lived in Ripoll, a city north of Barcelona. Three were arrested, and one was Oukabir — one of the dead suspects. Another arrest was made in the village of Alcanar.

A neighbor of Oukabir in Ripoll, Raimon Garcia, said Oukabir was one of four siblings — two brothers and two sisters.

Oukabir’s brother, Driss, was among those arrested. He turned himself into police when his identification was found in the Barcelona van, telling authorities he wasn’t involved in the attack.

A man who claimed to be a cousin of the brothers said Moussa Oukabir was “brainwashed.”

A woman who lives next to a mosque in the neighborhood told CNN that she had witnessed the Oukabir brothers attending the place of worship “every day for many years.”

Bulldozer clears rubble in Alcanar

In Alcanar, a quiet beach town about 125 miles (201 kilometers) south of Barcelona, explosives experts brought in a bulldozer Saturday to clear rubble before conducting a number of controlled explosions at the site.

Police said that the group based at the house had been planning “one or more” attacks on Barcelona. The remains of two people have so far been found at the site

Authorities suspect the property was being used as a base to make explosives that could have caused even more devastating attacks in Barcelona, Cambrils and possibly elsewhere, had they not blown up prematurely.

So far, police have found the remains of more than 100 gas canisters on the site.

The city’s vice mayor, Jordi Bort, told CNN the house belonged to a bank and that the group had been squatting there illegally without its knowledge.

The town is home to a mix of residents and others who just spend holidays or weekends here, he said. Neighbors said they did not suspect any wrongdoing at the property.

The septic tank of the house, which had only one floor, was used as storage for the tanks and explosives, Bort

A source briefed on the investigation said a preliminary assessment indicated there were traces of the powerful explosive TATP in the rubble.

TATP is made by adding an acid to a mixture of acetone and hydrogen peroxide solution and can easily result in accidental detonation if mistakes occur in the preparation.

TATP was used in the November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels bombings and the May bombing in Manchester, England.

Many of those who have successfully made TATP received some form of terrorist training.

Camp Nou tribute

In the Camp Nou stadium on Sunday, Barcelona football club’s players led fans inside and outside the stadium in a tribute to the victims of Thursday’s attack.

The mood was somber as Barça’s supporters gathered to watch their team’s first league game of the season against Real Betis.

Before the match, applause rang out as both teams gathered in the center of the pitch with the match officials next to a banner that said: “TotsSomBarcelona,” or “We are all Barcelona.” The Barca players wore black armbands.

A minute’s silence was then observed, a mark of respect that was also made at other matches across Spain over the weekend.