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Police Shoot And Kill Main Suspect In Barcelona Terror Attack

22/08/2017 1:08 AM AEST | Updated 22/08/2017 4:10 AM AEST

Spanish police on Monday shot and killed the man who drove a rented van into crowds on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas boulevard last week, an attack that killed at least 13 people and wounded dozens more.

Authorities confirmed on Twitter that the suspect they shot during an operation west of Barcelona was 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, who had been the subject of an extensive international manhunt since Thursday’s attack.

Abouyaaqoub appeared to be wearing an explosive vest during the confrontation, so police called in a bomb squad and used a robot to check on the body. Upon closer inspection, the explosives turned out to be fake.

Police also announced on Monday that Abouyaaqoub is believed to have stolen a vehicle and killed its driver while making his getaway after carrying out the attack on Las Ramblas.

The motorist’s murder brings the total death toll in Spain’s series of terror attacks last week to 15, including a woman killed in a separate van assault in the town of Cambrils. Police shot dead five suspects in the immediate aftermath of the Cambrils attack.

Authorities believe that the attack in Cambrils, the car-ramming on Las Ramblas and a house explosion in the Spanish coastal town of Alcanar were all perpetrated by members of the same extremist cell. One figure in the group, an imam named Abdelbaki Essati, died in the house explosion when gas canisters that the cell was planning to use in an attack detonated. 

Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero announced over the weekend that the terror cell is suspected to have contained 12 people, all of whom have now either been killed or apprehended. Many involved in the cell, including Abouyaaqoub and Essati, lived or worked in the town of Ripoll to the north of Barcelona.

Apart from Essati, who was 45 years old, the majority of people involved in the cell were in their 20s. The group also included four sets of brothers, including Younes Abouyaaoub’s younger brother Houssaine, who was killed in the attack in Cambrils. 

The car-ramming attacks in Spain, for which the self-described Islamic State has claimed responsibility, are the deadliest in the country since the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 192 people.

Last week’s killings also mark the latest use of vehicles in extremist attacks, a method that has become become increasingly prevalent in Europe in recent years with the encouragement of terror groups. Such attacks have killed over 100 people in major cities across Europe since 2015.

The attack on Las Ramblas targeted one of Spain’s most popular tourist hubs, which was reflected in the numerous nationalities of the victims. Among the dead were visitors from the United States, Australia and Canada. The youngest victim was 3 years old.  

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