UPDATE: Death toll in Spain attacks rises to 15
A regional official in Spain says that the death toll in the attacks last week in Barcelona and a coastal town south of the city has risen to 15.
Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn gave the updated figure in a news conference. He said that the new victim is a man found stabbed in a car. The car was believed to be used by one of the attackers to flee the scene.
The previous death toll was 14 — 13 people killed in a van attack on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas promenade on Thursday, and one woman killed hours later in Cambrils.
Spanish authorities on Monday said they were looking for just one person after the deadly vehicle attacks last week in Barcelona and a seaside town south of the city by a 12-man jihadi cell.
Moroccan suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, is the final target of a manhunt that has been ongoing since the attacks, Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn told Catalunya Radio. Forn said that “everything indicates” that Abouyaaqoub was the driver of the van that plowed down Barcelona’s emblematic Las Ramblas promenade on Thursday, killing 13 pedestrians and injuring more than 120 others.
Another attack hours later by other members of the cell killed one person and injured several more in the coastal town of Cambrils.
Regional authorities said 50 people were still hospitalized from both attacks, nine in 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 at least one extremist who died in an explosion Wednesday at a house where explosives were being prepared.
“It’s evident that the person who committed the van attack can’t be dead because the explosion happened before the attack in Las Ramblas,” Forn said.
Police killed five suspected extremists in the Cambrils attack in a shootout. Four others have been arrested.
Spanish newspaper El Pais published images Monday of what it says is Abouyaaqoub supposedly making a getaway on foot after the Barcelona van attack. The three images show a slim man wearing sunglasses seemingly walking through what El Pais says is traditional La Boqueria market just off Las Ramblas.
Catalonia’s regional president, meanwhile, said that regional and local authorities rejected the Spanish government’s suggestion to place traffic barriers to protect the Las Ramblas promenade because they deemed them “inefficient.”
Carles Puigdemont told La Sexta television that regional and municipal authorities discarded the suggestion because the barriers wouldn’t have prevented vehicles from entering the promenade at other points. Besides that, Puigdemont said closing off Las Ramblas was impractical because emergency vehicles still would need to be able to access the area.
Reports say the suggestion was made after other big vehicle attacks in Europe, but the precise timing wasn’t clear.
On Monday, mourners could be seen weeping and hugging each other as they visited the main memorial site of the Barcelona attack as the city tried to get back to normal with the beginning of a new working week. Crowds of people continued to lay flowers, candles and heart-shaped balloons at the top of Las Ramblas and other, smaller tributes located at different points where the van drove.
Meanwhile, the promenade regained some of its normal appearance, with throngs of people walking up and down, tourists arriving and people going about their daily business.
“We have to stand strong in front of these betrayers, assassins, terrorists,” said resident Monserrat Mora. “Because Barcelona is strong and they will not be able to prevail with us.”