At least 16 people are dead in Barcelona and more than 100 injured after a van ploughed through crowds, with Catalan authorities grimly predicting the terrorist attack’s death toll is “bound to rise”.
Two men have been arrested, with Islamic State immediately claiming responsibility, while a third was shot dead by police at a checkpoint.
A massive manhunt is now scouring the city for the fugitive third member of the terror team, believed to be the van’s driver.
Witnesses said a white Fiat van zigzagged at speed down Las Ramblas avenue, swerving repeatedly to target groups rather than individuals on the popular tourism thoroughfare.
The suspects in custody are a Spanish national from the North African enclave of Melilla and a Moroccan, according to police.
- A white van zigzags down the street and slams into pedestrians in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district. The driver flees on foot
- Three Australians, one woman and two men, confirmed injured in the attack. Woman hospitalised
- Barcelona police close train stations and tell people to stay away from the city centre
- Islamic State claims responsibility
- Bodies strewn over the street
- Two men arrested, with unconfirmed reports one has been killed in an exchange of gunfire.
- A second van found in the town of Vic is believed to have been a getaway vehicle
Police said a man who ran over two officers at a checkpoint was shot dead, but were still establishing if he was linked to the van rampage.
One Australian woman, believed to be from New South Wales, is in hospital and two young Australian men, believed to be from the western suburbs of Melbourne, are among the injured.
Australian tourist Susan McLean was about 100m from the scene.
“All of a sudden there was this tidal wave of people running … screaming, crying and with absolute terror etched on their faces,” she told Channel Nine on Friday.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Australians’ prayers were with the victims, saying “this is a global battle against terrorism.”
Esta es la furgoneta utilizada en el atropello múltiple. El conductor ha huido a pie.
La foto la he recortado porque se veía una víctima. pic.twitter.com/oG8Q7WHSEe
— Xavier Aldekoa (@xavieraldekoa) August 17, 2017
“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,” eyewitness Tom Gueller told the BBC.
“It wasn’t slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds.”
Mobile phone footage posted on Twitter captured scenes of horror and mayhem, with bodies of the dead and injured scattered on pavements littered with hats, bags and even an abandoned pram.
Overwhelmed by the carnage, bystanders and the first paramedics to arrive could do little more than comfort the injured and dying.
“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.
Spanish police released a photo of the man thought to have rented the van, naming him as Moroccan-born Driss Oukabir.
Oukabir, who is reported to have handed himself to police after seeing his face in the media, claims his identification documents were stolen.
Barcelona residents, meanwhile, have queued at hospitals to donate blood.
Witness Ethan Spibey told Britain’s Sky News: “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 behind locked doors with dozens of other people in a nearby church.
Catalonia’s regional president Carles Puigdemont vowed to “vanquish terrorism”, saying, “Catalonia will always prevail in the face of terrorism. Democracy will always win against barbarism.”
Mr Puigdemont declared three days of mourning for the Catalan region.
World leaders have been quick to condemn the attack and offer support to Spain.
The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
An explosion that completely destroyed a house and left one person dead in the coastal town of Alcanar has been linked to the Barcelona attack, police say.
– More to come, with agencies