Spanish police say they have shot a suspect apparently wearing an explosives belt as they hunt the man suspected of driving the van used in the Barcelona attack.
Catalan police say the man was “shot down” during an operation in the town of Subirats, west of Barcelona.
Spanish authorities on Monday shot and killed Younes Abouyaaqoub, the suspected driver of the van that plowed into crowds last week in Barcelona, according to a tweet from the Catalan police.
Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national, was killed during an operation in Subirats. He was alleged to have been been the sole driver of the van that plowed into crowds on Las Ramblas, killing 13 people and injuring over 120 others.
A robot was sent to remove the explosives belt from the suspect’s body before officers would be cleared to approach it, police said.
In an earlier news conference Monday, investigators said Abouyaaqoub fled the scene of Thursday’s attack on foot and hijacked a car to escape. Abouyaaqoub is alleged to have stabbed the owner of the car, Pau Perez, as he parked the vehicle, and drove off with his body inside the car.
Police fired on the car after it rammed through a checkpoint just after 6pm Thursday night but Abouyaaqoub was able to flee a second time. Perez was found dead in the vehicle. He becomes the 15th victim of the attacks in Barcelona and the Catalan town of Cambrils, where one woman died early on Friday morning.
Speaking to local radio Monday, Joaquim Forn, the Catalan Interior Minister, said all the evidence pointed to Abouyaaqoub being the sole driver and that security services were working with other agencies around Europe to find him.
Police carried out more raids overnight at homes in the town of Ripoll, north of Barcelona, where many of the suspects in the attack lived, Forn said.
Abouyaaqoub was one of 12 terror suspects linked to the Barcelona attack. Authorities have said none had previous known links to terror activities.
On Saturday, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoida said that the terror cell believed to be responsible for the attack on Las Ramblas and Cambrils had been “completely dismantled.”
Eight of the 12 lived in Ripoll, north of Barcelona.
The investigation has focused on a property in Alcanar, suspected of being used as a base to make explosives that could have caused even more devastating attacks had they not blown up prematurely on Wednesday.
One of those police believe to have died in the blast at Alcanar is Muslim cleric Abdelbakir El-Satty.
Catalan Justice Minister Carles Mundó i Blanch, also speaking at the press conference Monday, said El-Saty had served a jail sentence for drug trafficking in the past but this was in the province of Castellon, eastern Spain, not in Catalonia.
Spanish media reports have claimed that El-Satty shared a jail cell with one of the terrorists involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings which killed at least 191 people and left hundreds injured.
Responding to those reports, Blanch added: “We are not aware that this person had any communication with any inmate in any prison on Catalonia. He finished his sentence and went free.”
Bulldozer clears rubble in Alcanar
In Alcanar on Sunday, explosives experts brought in a bulldozer to clear rubble before conducting a number of controlled explosions at the site. The remains of two people have so far been found there.
So far, police have found the remains of more than 100 gas canisters on the site.
The city’s vice mayor, Jordi Bort, told CNN the house belonged to a bank and that the group had been squatting there illegally without its knowledge.
The town is home to a mix of residents and others who just spend holidays or weekends here, he said. Neighbors said they did not suspect any wrongdoing at the property.
The septic tank of the house, which had only one floor, was used as storage for the tanks and explosives, Bort said.
A source briefed on the investigation said a preliminary assessment indicated there were traces of the powerful explosive TATP in the rubble.
TATP is made by adding an acid to a mixture of acetone and hydrogen peroxide solution and can easily result in accidental detonation if mistakes occur in the preparation.