News World Fugitive Barcelona terror van driver killed in shootout

Fugitive Barcelona terror van driver killed in shootout

Spanish police
Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, was gunned down by while wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt. Photo: AP
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Police have shot dead a man believed to have driven the van in last week’s deadly Barcelona terror attack.

Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, was gunned down by officers as he was confronted wearing a fake explosives belt.

The Moroccan was cornered in Subirats, about 50km west of Barcelona, on Tuesday morning (AEST) after police were tipped off to a man behaving suspiciously.

Abouyaaqoub is reported to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” and moved threateningly before being brought down.

Bomb disposal officers attended the scene and used a robot to examine the suspected explosive belt. This led to some delay before Abouyaaqoub could be officially identified.

Thirteen people were killed in the attack in Barcelona on Thursday, including seven-year-old Australian boy Julian Cadman.

Joaquim Forn, head of home affairs in Catalonia’s regional government, said earlier on Monday that “everything indicates” Abouyaaqoub was behind the wheel.

Police have revealed that he stole a car and killed its owner as he made his getaway after fleeing the carnage in Las Ramblas on foot.

He had been the only at-large member of the 12-strong terror cell behind the attacks in Barcelona on Thursday and in the seaside town of Cambrils early on Friday.

One person was killed in the Cambrils attack, in which terrorists wearing fake suicide belts drove an Audi A3 into pedestrians, bringing the death toll to 15.

Police revealed on Monday that Abouyaaqoub walked around Barcelona for about 90 minutes after the van attack before hijacking a Ford Focus, stabbing its owner, Pau Perez, and driving away with his dead body still inside.

Abouyaaqoub rammed the car through a police checkpoint on Friday night then dumped the vehicle about a kilometre away but he had fled by the time police found it with Perez’s body still inside.

Younes Abouyaaquoub
Younes Abouyaaquoub was discovered just 50 km from Barcelona.

Four other suspects have been arrested and at least two extremists died on Wednesday in an explosion at a house in Alcanar, where explosives were being prepared.

Police believe the explosion in Alcanar prevented the terror cell from carrying out what would have been a far deadlier attack.

Police are reportedly probing claims the cell was radicalised by an imam with links to the Madrid train bombers and an area in Belgium known as a hotspot for Islamic State recruiting.

Spanish newspaper El Pais said Abdelbaki Es Satty was imam at one of the two mosques in Ripoll, in the northeast of Spain near the French border and around 100km from Barcelona.

All of the main suspects are believed to have lived in the small town.

Catalan justice minister Carles Mundo says the 15 fatalities from last week’s terrorism attacks are eight males, including two minors, and seven women.

Of the 120 injured on Las Ramblas, eight remain in a critical condition in hospital.

It was the deadliest attack in Spain since March 2004, when Islamists planted bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people, and the latest in a series of vehicular assaults on civilians in European cities claimed by Islamic State.

Spanish police said the international investigation was still open and have sought information on a visit Es Satty made to Belgium last year.

The van driver, Abouyaaqoub, began showing more religiously conservative behaviour over the past year, said relatives in his native Morocco.

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.

– With agencies

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