Spanish police kill 5 terror suspects in shootout south of Barcelona

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CAMBRILS, Spain — A second terror attack has occurred in Spain’s northeastern Catalan region, hours after a van drove into a large group of pedestrians in a crowded Barcelona street, killing 13 and injuring over 100.

In the early hours of Friday morning, five armed attackers were shot dead while attempting to enter a tourist area in the small coastal town of Cambrils, 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Barcelona, police said.

Officials have so far provided little information concerning the Cambrils attack, other than confirming that six bystanders were injured along with one police officer.

Reports the attackers may have been armed with suicide belts remains unverified, though police say a specialist bomb disposal team was deployed.

In a press conference Thursday, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy labeled the Barcelona attack as “jihadi terrorism.”

Here are the latest developments:

— Catalan police said on Twitter they are currently treating the Cambrils and Barcelona attacks as related.

— Police are on the scene in Cambrils after they shot five terrorists dead. A number of controlled explosions were carried out.

— A Belgian is among the 13 dead, while the 100 or more injured include Australians and a Hong Kong citizen.

— King Felipe, the Spanish head of state, will lead a moment of silence at 6 a.m. on Friday morning at Plaza Catluna in Barcelona.

— Shows of support continue to pour in from around the world, including US President Donald Trump and German leader Angela Merkel.

‘Scene of carnage’

The first attack began at about 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, in one of Barcelona’s most popular tourists districts.

A white van with blue markings drove into a packed crowd of locals and visitors enjoying an afternoon along Las Ramblas, a predominantly pedestrian area full of cafes, bars and street performers.

“I saw people flying into the air and everyone was running into the shops on either side,” witness Ali Shirzainia told CNN. He saw the van drive past him.

Shirzainia said the driver appeared to be driving “in a zig-zag motion” as fast as he could, trying to hit as many people as possible. “It was just a really, really horrific scene of immediate carnage,” he said.

More than a dozen people were killed, with the death toll expected to rise, while about 100 others were injured. The driver escaped and is still on the run.

A large number of tourists were caught up in the Barcelona attack — among the dead and injured are confirmed to be citizens of Belgium, Australia and Hong Kong.

ISIS’ media wing, Amaq, has said the Barcelona attackers were “soldiers of the Islamic State,” but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility for the attacks or providing evidence for their claims.

There were reports at the time of a hostage standoff at a Barcelona cafe but police later confirmed they were false. Separately, police shot dead the driver of a car who ran into and lightly injured two police officers at a checkpoint in Barcelona Thursday.

The night before the Barcelona attack, one person was killed following an explosion in a house in Alcanar, a town to the south of Barcelona and Cambrils. Police said the victim was a Spanish national and the incident was connected to the Barcelona van attack. One person was later arrested.

Pocket of radicalization

It is Spain’s deadliest terror attack in 13 years — in 2004, a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist cell blew up Madrid commuter trains killing 192 people and injuring thousands.

Europe has been the target of a spate of deadly terrorist attacks in recent years, but so far Spain had been left untouched.

But Fernando Reinares, director of the Global Terrorism Programme at the Elcano Royal Institute, told CNN Barcelona had long been a “prime scenario” for jihadi activities in Spain.

“It is the major radicalization pocket in the country. Barcelona is a big port city, close to France (and) has a long history of jihadis. The first jihadi ever in this country was arrested in Barcelona in 1995,” Reinares said.

Since then, a quarter of all individuals arrested in Spain for jihadist terrorism have been residents of Barcelona, according to Reinares.

The Barcelona attack was the sixth time in 13 months a vehicle has been used by Islamist terrorist to cause mass casualties in a European country, including major incidents in France, Germany, the UK and Sweden.

World leaders ‘stand united’

The leaders of other European cities recently targeted by terrorists sent their sympathies to Spain. London major Sadiq Khan described the Barcelona attack as “barbaric.”

“London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism,” he said on Twitter.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack in Barcelona “revolting,” her spokesman tweeted. “We are mourning the victims of this disgusting attack in Barcelona — in solidarity and friendship side by side with the Spanish.”

US President Donald Trump tweeted a swift denunciation of the Spain attacks: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever it is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”

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