At Least 1 Killed After Second Attack, Spanish Police Say

Aug 18, 2017
Originally published on August 18, 2017 9:15 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The victims of terrorist attacks in Spain came from dozens of countries, including, we now know, the United States. Here's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

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REX TILLERSON: Regrettably, I wanted to open the little session this morning with a little bit of not-so-great news. I want to acknowledge that we have now received word and confirmed the death of one American citizen in the terrorist attacks in Spain.

CHANG: Tillerson did not identify the American who was killed. Another U.S. citizen sustained a minor injury. Let's go over right now what we know about the attacks. The first happened yesterday in Barcelona on a street filled with tourists. A white van swerved into crowds, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than a hundred others. Police say the driver may still be on the run.

Then early this morning, there was another vehicle attack about 75 miles south of Barcelona in a town called Cambrils. One person on the street was killed. Then police fatally shot five men who were in that car. Joining us now for an update is NPR's Frank Langfitt. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Ailsa.

CHANG: Good morning. So what do we know about this young man the police are pursuing?

LANGFITT: Police say his name is Musa Oukabir. Eighteen years old, a dual national, Spanish and Moroccan. They have not said why they're pursuing him. And also, I should note that they have not identified the driver yet who drove in Barcelona yesterday killing those folks. This fellow, Mr. Oukabir, he lived in Ripoll. It's a town north of Barcelona. He studied at Barcelona University. And the only sign of possible radicalization - he'd been on a social media site, when answering a question said he would like to kill all the infidels so all Muslims could worship in peace. And that's all we know so far about him.

CHANG: We don't - does he have a criminal record of any kind so far?

LANGFITT: Not that we're aware of yet.

CHANG: OK. There were two other terrorist incidents there along the coast of northeastern Spain south of Barcelona. Can you tell us about those incidents?

LANGFITT: Well, it's a little complex, but I'll just walk you through it. Alcanar - this is a coastal town three hours south of Barcelona - there was an explosion. It turns out, according to police, there were jihadis trying to build bombs, working on explosives in the house. They leveled the house. One person was killed.

Police did arrest another one who was injured in the blast. And that seemed to trigger these other attacks you were just talking about with the van and the other vehicle early this morning. And in that case, five people, as we were saying, had driven through a roadblock and were shot by police. So what it looks like is they were planning an attack. They were working with these explosives. When they went off, they felt that they had to then act and rush to make these other attacks.

CHANG: So catch me up here. There have been now four arrests total?

LANGFITT: There was the one, of course, that we mentioned, the person who was injured in the house explosion. Also, Mr. Oukabir has a brother whose ID was found in the van that was used here in Barcelona. Police have also detained and arrested several of his friends. But that's where it stands so far, the situation here very fluid. Police continue to investigate and trying to piece together exactly how this all played out.

CHANG: And have you had a chance to talk with folks where you are? What is the mood? How are people feeling right now?

LANGFITT: Well, I have. I'm actually right by the site where this is a big pedestrian walking street, essentially, in the middle of the city and usually would be filled with thousands of people, probably, tons of people, you know, on an afternoon in August, most of them tourists. People I talked to today - it's a somber mood. There are a lot of candles out, as you would expect. But also, in talking to people who are here from Barcelona, they said in some ways they were not surprised by this.

I was talking to a guy named Cesar Castro (ph). He runs a clothing shop. And he sheltered people during the attack. He said when it actually happened, people ran in and he pulled down the shutters of his store to protect them. But he also said that when he was out there the day before, he was taking a video and he turned to his wife, he said, you know, a person could drive a van right down here.

So he said he wasn't surprised. And I think that what you're seeing now, Ailsa, is given the attacks we've had in London, four of which I've covered - certainly we've had the attacks in Paris - people are becoming much more acclimated to this. And they're not surprised when it happens.

CHANG: Unfortunately not. That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in Barcelona, Spain. Thank you very much, Frank.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.