Police in Spain’s Catalonia region are now focusing their search for the driver of the van used in the terror attack in Barcelona on Thursday that killed at least 13 people and left over 100 injured on one person: Younes Abouyaaqoub.
Abouyaaqoub was born on January 1, 1995 in the Moroccan town of M'rirt, home to around 35,000 people, some 230 kilometers from Rabat and located south of the highway that links the city of Fez and the Moroccan capital.
Until Thursday, Abouyaaqoub lived a seemingly normal life in the small town of Ripoll, a community in the foothills of the Pyrenees of some 10,000 people. He went to high school in the town and his neighbors said his circle of friends was not limited to Moroccans.
Police sources say documents relating to Abouyaaqoub were found in a second van located by the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, in the town of Vic, some 70 kilometers from Barcelona and 30 kilometers from Ripoll.
Police are working on the theory that after an explosion on Wednesday night in a property in Alcanar in Catalona’s Tarragona province, Abouyaaqoub split from the rest of the terrorist cell numbering some 12 people and carried out the van attack on Barcelona’s La Rambla boulevard before fleeing the scene.
Abouyaaqoub went to high school in Ripoll and neighbors say his circle of friends was not limited to Moroccans
Police are also investigating whether it was Abouyaaqoub who hijacked a white Ford Focus that failed to stop at a police roadblock on Barcelona’s Diagonal avenue on Thursday at 7.45pm. One Mossos d'Esquadra officer suffered a broken leg after being run into during the incident.
Shortly afterwards, a person was discovered dead as a result of injuries inflicted with a bladed weapon in the same vehicle three kilometers away in the Barcelona locality of Sant Just Desvern.
Investigators believe the hijacker of the vehicle fled after abandoning the car, leaving its owner seriously wounded on the rear seat.
The owner of the Ford Focus has now been identified as Pau Pérez, a 34-year-old who lived in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès in Barcelona province and worked in Barcelona city.
Pérez was returning to Vilafranca around 7pm on Thursday evening when he was attacked, stabbed and his car stolen.
Initially, counter-terrorist sources said that Abouyaaqoub had died. Late on Friday, however, police said he was still alive and was now one of the chief suspects in relation to the Barcelona terror attack.
Earlier, 17-year-old Moussa Oukabir, who was one of five terror suspects killed by police in the Catalan resort town of Cambrils after a second attack there early on Friday morning, had been named as the chief suspect, but the focus of the investigations has now turned to Abouyaaqoub.
According to French daily Le Parisien, French security forces have been told by Spanish police to be on the lookout for a white Renault Kangoo has that crossed the Spanish–French border.
English version by George Mills.