Police in Spain have shot dead a man they believe was the driver of Thursday’s deadly van attack in Barcelona.
Ending a massive manhunt, police killed Younes Abouyaaqoub after confronting him Monday in a rural area known for its vineyards about 45 kilometers west of Barcelona. Authorities say they shot the fugitive after he held up what appeared to be a bomb belt.
“We confirm that the man shot dead in #subirats is Younes Abouyaaqoub, author of the terrorist attack in #barcelona,” police tweeted on Monday, after earlier reporting the man in the town of Subirats was wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt.
Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn told Catalunya radio that “everything indicates” Younes Abouyaaqoub was behind the wheel of the van during Thursday’s Barcelona attack that killed 15 people.
Police say a bomb disposal robot was dispatched to approach the man’s body after the shooting.
Earlier, authorities said they had been searching for Abouyaaqoub as the last member of a 12-person cell still at large.
Police have arrested four of the suspects in the 12-man cell, while the rest were either killed by police or died in an explosion at a house on the day before the attack. Many of the suspects had connections to the northeastern town of Ripoll, one of the places where police have focused their investigation.
Authorities say Abouyaaqoub, who was born in Morocco and has Spanish residency, also is suspected of carjacking a man and stabbing him to death as he made his getaway from the Barcelona attack.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack along with another vehicle attack on Friday in which a car crashed into people in the resort town of Cambrils, Spain, and the attackers then got out and tried to stab people. One person was killed and several people were wounded. Authorities believe both attacks were carried out by the same terrorist cell.
Authorities are also looking for an imam named Abdelbaki Es Satty, whom they believe may have radicalized some of those who carried out the attack in Barcelona and the later attack in Cambrils.
The Associated Press reports neighbors said the vehicles used in the Cambrils and Barcelona attacks were seen at the Alcanar home prior to the blast.
Arrests may have prevented more attacks
Deakin University professor of global Islamic politics Greg Barton told VOA that Spain’s previous arrests of terrorism suspects could explain why it has not dealt with the same number of attacks as other countries in Europe such as France and Belgium in recent years.
“Spain is not immune from these problems, particularly Catalonia where there are links with northern Morocco,” Barton said. “But Spain up until now has been able to keep on top of the problem whereas France and Belgium have been struggling.”
Barton also said there does not seem to be any particular link between the influx of migrants to Europe and these attacks.
“The individuals being recruited have largely grown up in the countries where they’re recruited and they launch attacks in neighborhoods familiar to them,” he said.
VOA’s Victor Beattie contributed to this report.