Update: Police now confirm it was the fugitive from last week’s attacks:
BREAKING: Spanish police have shot and killed Younes Abouyaaquoub, suspected driver of the van in the Barcelona attack pic.twitter.com/U94jTk73Hn
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 21, 2017
It seemed likely to be him all along, but it does pay to wait for confirmation.
Update: Whomever this was, he’s dead, according to AFP:
Spanish police on Monday shot dead a man who could be Younes Abouyaaqoub, the suspected driver of a van that mowed down pedestrians in Barcelona, amid a massive manhunt for the Moroccan national described as dangerous and likely armed.
“They have shot dead a suspect who could be the perpetrator of the attack,” a source close to the probe told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Regional police confirmed a man wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt had been killed in Subirats, a village about 60 kilometres (37 miles) away from Barcelona, without identifying the individual.
Update: At least one Spanish newspaper says it’s Abouyaaquoub, according to the AP:
La Vanguardia newspaper reported Abouyaaqoub was captured Sant Sadurni d’Anoia; the Catalan police tweeted that there was an ongoing police operation but did not confirm Abouyaaqoub’s capture in the area of Subirats about 45 kilometers (28 miles)outside Barcelona.
Take caution in early reports. Police in Spain had thought that Abouyaaquoub was the last remaining member of the terror cell, but they could have been wrong.
Further updates will go to the top of the post, in reverse chronological order.
Original post follows …
He’s the one that got away, and all indications are that Younes Abouyaaquoub was the worst of them. Police in Spain have managed to roll up the radical Islamist terror cell that committed coordinated attacks in Catalonia and Barcelona, but they missed the main perpetrator. European police have gotten an APB on Abouyaaquoub, who may have escaped into France to connect with other terrorists or to flee the continent:
Catalan police told reporters the suspected driver is 22-year-old Moroccan Younes Abouyaaquoub who subsequently fled the scene on foot and hijacked a car to aid his escape. During his escape, Abouyaaquoub allegedly stabbed and killed Pau Perez, 34, a vehicle owner who became the 15th victim. …
Police are still searching for Abouyaaqoub who they say is one of 12 suspects who carried out attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils where one further person was killed.
A local government official had earlier told Catalan radio that investigators believed “everything indicates” that 22-year-old Moroccan Younes Abouyaaquoub was the driver.
Joaquim Forn, who runs the Catalonia regional government’s interior ministry, said that Abouyaaqoub is the final member of the cell that remains at large and that the he was being sought in “all European countries.”
Have they already caught up with Abouyaaquoub? Police in Barcelona report that they have shot a man wearing a suicide belt today, yelling … exactly what you’d expect. So far, police have not confirmed that it’s Abouyaaquoub:
BREAKING: Regional police report shooting man wearing possible explosives belt in town outside Barcelona.
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 21, 2017
Earlier, police confirmed they were hunting for Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, suspected of driving a van into dozens of people on Las Ramblas.
Police have not confirmed if the man shot is Abouyaaqoub.
Media reports quoting police sources said the man targeted in Subirats shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Greatest”) when confronted.
Spanish security forces tried throwing up roadblocks over the weekend to catch Abouyaaquoub, but didn’t have any luck in finding him. They did, however, claim that the cell had been “dismantled,” and three vans linked to the attack had been located:
Police put up scores of roadblocks across northeast Spain on Sunday in hopes of capturing a fugitive suspect from the 12-member Islamic extremist cell that staged two vehicle attacks and plotted much deadlier carnage using explosives favored by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants. …
Another police official did confirm that three vans tied to the investigation were rented with Abouyaaquoub’s credit card: The one used in the Las Ramblas carnage, another found in the northeastern town of Ripoll, where all the main attack suspects lived, and a third found in Vic, on the road between the two.
Sources told CBS News the terrorists were planning a larger attack. Police believe the cell members had planned to fill the vans with explosives and create a massive attack in the Catalan capital. Trapero confirmed that more than 100 tanks of butane gas were found at the Alcanar house that exploded, as well as ingredients of the explosive TATP, which was used by ISIS in attacks in Paris and Brussels.
“Our thesis is that the group had planned one or more attacks with explosives in the city of Barcelona,” he said. That plot was foiled, however, when the house in Alcanar blew up Wednesday night. It was leveled, and the explosions were so strong that a neighbor showed CBS News how it broke the glass in her window. Spanish police theorize that after the explosives prematurely ignited, the terrorists went to plan B.
Catalonia police put their alert out on Twitter as well, hoping to get tips from the public:
— Mossos (@mossos) August 21, 2017
Abouyaaquoub’s mother pleaded with her son to come back and turn himself into police, before he or anyone else gets killed. Their community is claiming that a recently arrived imam radicalized the young men. Speaking on Spanish television through an interpreter, the mother says, “Since the imam arrived here, everything changed about the young boys, but you’d never suspect that they’d pass on these things here, much less amongst your own people”:
That community clearly has not paid attention to the impact of traveling imams spreading radical Islam. That’s precisely what they do — pass along terrorism amongst their own people. If these communities don’t want these outcomes, they’ll deal with the radical imams as soon as they set up shop, rather than just lament after the fact.
If ISIS assisted in this attack, they’re probably trying to get Abouyaaquoub out of Europe and into Syria. If they couldn’t do that, then the perp may have decided to go out with a bang, but apparently bungled the job — if it’s Abouyaaquoub, that is. Either way, Abouyaaquoub might soon wish he’d heeded his mother’s advice … or not heeded his imam’s.