Islamic State claims Barcelona attack that leaves 12 dead, 80 injured
MADRID — Islamic State claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack that killed at least 12 people and left dozens injured in central Barcelona on Thursday.
Islamic State-affiliated Amaq news agency said that the militant group’s “soldiers” were behind the attack in Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas area, were a van crashed through crowds of people on one of Barcelona’s busiest thoroughfares.
Two suspects have been arrested, Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont said, adding that at least 12 people have died and about 80 were injured.
Albert Zeitler, a German witness at the scene, told dpa by phone that it felt like a “war zone” near the area’s Museum of Contemporary Art, where he was at the time.
“Police with machine guns and weapons were running at me. Everyone fled into the shops,” he said.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
El Mundo interviewed witness Erminia Mata, who spoke of “a lot of people lying on the ground, covered with blood.”
Spanish media earlier released video footage of the scene showing motionless bloodied bodies strewn across the street.
Europe has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks using vehicles in the last two years including deadly incidents in Nice, Berlin and two in London.
Videos on social media showed a van traveling with its side door wide open at high speed down a pedestrian area.
A police spokesman told dpa they are not exactly certain what happened. There were reports two vans may have been involved and that one had been recovered in a separate town, but police did not confirm this.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted: “In contact with all the administrations. Priority: to attend to the injured in Las Ramblas and make the work of the security forces easier.”
Newspaper El Pais reported that Rajoy is cutting his vacation short and is going to Barcelona.
El Pais, citing police, said a Spanish passport was found inside the vehicle that hit the crowd. The paper reported that police say they are looking for a man 5 feet 6 inches tall, wearing a white shirt with blue stripes.
Stores on the street shuttered their windows in the wake of the incident while police were looking for the driver of the van, according to local broadcasters.
Other reports stated that most public transportation in the area had been shut down and that authorities were calling for blood donations.
Spain’s worst terrorist attack was in March 2004 when 191 people were killed by bombs planted by Islamists on commuter trains in Madrid.