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BARCELONA: 13 dead, over 50 hurt in city attack

Barcelona attack: What we know

Barcelona, Spain | AFP |  At least 13 people were killed Thursday when a driver deliberately slammed a van into crowds on Barcelona’s most popular street in what police said was a “terror attack”.

The attack, the latest in a wave of vehicle rammings across Europe in recent years, caused panic on the streets of Spain’s largest city and drew condemnation from world leaders.

“We can confirm there are 13 dead and more than 50 injured,” regional interior minister Joaquim Forn said in a tweet.

Catalan police said they had arrested two suspects, and denied earlier reports that the perpetrator was holed up in a bar near the scene.

The IS propaganda agency Amaq claimed that “soldiers” from the jihadist group carried out the attack, according to the Site Intelligence Group which monitors Islamist websites.

The famous Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona’s busiest streets, lined with shops and restaurants and normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

Police said there had been a “huge collision” between a van and pedestrians on the thoroughfare and a police source said officers were seeking a total of two suspects.

Spain’s royal family condemned the assault in unusually strong terms, vowing that their country would not be “terrorised” by extremists..

– What happened? –

Around 5pm (1500 GMT), a vehicle slammed into a crowd of pedestrians on the famous Las Ramblas boulevard.

The promenade in the heart of the city centre is one of the city’s busiest streets, normally thronged with tourists and street performers until well into the night.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos and panic as they tried to flee.

Regional interior minister Joaquim Forn said 13 people had died and more than 50 were injured.

– The suspect –

Police in the Spanish region of Catalonia where Barcelona is located said on Twitter they have arrested one man and are treating the incident as a “terrorist attack”.

Initially a police source said one suspect had fled to a nearby bar, but this was later denied.

One witness told Spain’s TVE television he saw the suspect when the van stopped.

“It was a person in their 20s, he is very young, brown hair, a slim face.”

– How did authorities respond? –

Emergency services quickly arrived on the scene and cordoned off the area, with several ambulances and police vehicles responding.

The city also closed down metro stations in the area, with authorities telling people to stay away from the area.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he was in contact with the local authorities, saying the priority was to help the victims and facilitate the work of security forces.

Police appealed to people to stay in their homes and avoid unnecessary trips.

Previous attacks in Spain –

Spain was hit by what is still Europe’s deadliest jihadist attack in March 2004, when bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda-inspired extremists.

In July 2015, a hooded attacker opened fire outside a hotel in downtown Barcelona near Las Ramblas boulevard, leaving two people injured, police said.

No suspected motive for the attack was given.

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