Man shot dead by police outside Barcelona confirmed as van driver
Police confirmed yesterday that a man shot dead outside Barcelona and wearing what appeared to be an explosives vest, was the driver they had been hunting after the city’s van attack.
Officers shot the man in Subirats, a small town 45 kilometers west of Barcelona, while investigating a “suspicious person.” A bomb disposal robot was dispatched to approach the suspect, Catalan police said.
La Vanguardia newspaper reported that the man shot was Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, who has been the target of an international manhunt since last Thursday’s van attack in Barcelona.
Authorities yesterday said they had evidence that Abouyaaqoub drove the van that plowed down the city’s famed Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13 pedestrians and injuring more than 120 others.
They said Abouyaaqoub, who was born in Morocco and has Spanish residency, is suspected of carjacking a man and stabbing him to death as he made his getaway, raising the death toll between the Barcelona attack and a related attack hours later to 15.
Another vehicle attack early on Friday by other members of what Catalonia police have described as a 12-member extremist cell killed one person and wounded several others in the coastal town of Cambrils. That ended in a shootout with police, who killed five attackers.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
La Vanguardia newspaper reported that Abouyaaqoub had been captured but Catalan police tweeted that there was an ongoing police operation and did not confirm if it involved the suspect.
Police have “scientific evidence” showing Abouyaaqoub drove the speeding van in Las Ramblas and killed the owner of a hijacked sedan on Thursday night, regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero said yesterday.
He said the suspect walked through Barcelona for about 90 minutes after the van attack — through the famed La Boqueria market and nearly to Barcelona University — before hijacking the car. Abouyaaqoub is believed to have made his getaway in the stolen car with the dead body of its owner, Pau Perez Villan, 35, inside.
Perez was parking his car, a Ford Focus, in a lot between 6:10pm and 6:20pm. Abouyaaqoub stabbed him before 6:32pm, put him in the car’s rear seats and drove away, Trapero said.
Trapero said Perez was already dead when Abouyaaqoub then rammed the car through a police checkpoint minutes later and police opened fire.
The suspect ran over a police officer as the car evaded the checkpoint. About 7pm, police found the car and Perez’s body 3 kilometers away from the checkpoint, near Sant Just Desvern, a town west of Barcelona, but Abouyaaqoub was nowhere to be found. The Spanish newspaper El Pais published images yesterday of what it says is Abouyaaqoub making a getaway on foot after the van attack. The three images show a slim man wearing sunglasses walking through the La Boqueria market.
Abouyaaqoub escaped and had not returned to his home in Ripoll, said Trapero. The manhunt had reached well beyond Spain’s borders. Four other suspects have been arrested.
Regional authorities said 50 people are still hospitalized from both attacks, nine of them in a critical condition.
Abouyaaqoub was believed to be the lone attacker on the run by Sunday, but authorities hadn’t confirmed his identity because they were having difficulty identifying the remains of two extremists who died on Wednesday in an explosion at a house in Alcanar where explosives were being prepared.