Barcelona terror attack linked to small Catalan town of Alcanar

Spanish police link events on Thursday and Friday with gas explosion on Wednesday night

The jihadist van attack in downtown Barcelona on Thursday afternoon left at least 13 people dead. Several hours later, police shot dead five terror suspects in the Catalan resort town of Cambrils. It has since emerged that the two incidents were related to an explosion in the small town of Alcanar in Catalonia’s Tarragona province on Wednesday night, according to Josep Lluís Trapero, the head of the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra.

The ruins of house where the explosion occurred on Wednesday night.
The ruins of house where the explosion occurred on Wednesday night.Jaume Sellart (EFE)

At 11.17pm on Wednesday, an explosion shook the town of less than 10,000 people, some 200 kilometers south of Barcelona. One person died and seven people were injured. Regional fire authorities initially said a gas build-up had caused the explosion.

However, on Thursday night Trapero said that several elements of the investigation connected the explosion “in a clear way, and with little room for doubt” to the attack in Barcelona.

One person suspected of being connected to the attack has now been arrested in Alcanar. Police are working on the theory that an explosive device was being built at the property.

Some twenty butane and propane gas canisters were discovered in the house, which appeared to have been occupied for several months. Two people were found in the ruins; one of them dead. Police sources have not yet confirmed whether the other person discovered in the property is the suspect arrested in relation to the Barcelona terror attack. He was described as being in a serious condition and was taken to Catalonia’s Hospital Virgen de la Cinta.

Some twenty butane and propane gas canisters were found in the house

Wednesday’s explosion caused serious damage to the facade of the house in Alcanar, and debris from the blast also damaged two houses opposite. The explosion could be heard kilometers away. Police initially suspected the property housed an illegal drug laboratory but later realized that the gas canisters inside had been manipulated.The Mossos d’Esquadra finally connected the explosion withThursday’s attack but have not provided further details.

Driss Oukabir.
Driss Oukabir.EFE

Meanwhile, in Ripoll, in Catalonia’s Girona province police have arrested 28-year-old Driss Oukabir, who is suspected of having rented the van used in the Barcelona attack. His home was being searched late on Thursday, according to police sources.

Oukabir was on a police watch list and had spent time in prison in Figueres, Catalonia, but was released in 2012. According to police sources, he lived in Ripoll and had rented the van used in the Barcelona attack. Counter-terrorist sources said Oukabir had arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on Sunday, August 13. Those sources also said the suspect had been in Madrid several years earlier.

“What we have to look at carefully is the radicalization and contact of these people with someone connected to Daesh [Islamic State],” those sources said.

A third suspect is still being sought in relation to Thursday’s attack in Barcelona.

English version by George Mills.

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