Spain, France press manhunt for ringleader in dual attacks by Islamic State – Accidental explosion prevents far deadlier attack

LEFT: Younes Abouyaaquoub. This is an undated handout photo sourced from social media of 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaquoub. Authorities in Spain and France pressed their search Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017 for the supposed ringleader of an Islamic extremist cell that carried out vehicle attacks in Barcelona and a seaside resort, as the investigation focused on links among the Moroccan members and the house where they plotted the carnage. One of the main suspects in the attacks, Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan, was believed to be at large. His name figures on a police list of four main suspects sought in the attack. All the suspects on the list hail from Ripoll, a quiet, upscale town of 10,000 about 100 kilomaters north of Barcelona. (Social Media via AP) RIGHT: Moussa Oukabir. This is an undated handout photo of Moussa Oukabir that was sourced from social media on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. 17-year-old Oukabir was named on the list of suspects and his brother Driss reported his documents stolen to police in Ripoll. Ripoll's mayor confirmed the documents were found in one of the vehicles used in the attacks. (Social Media via AP)

ALEX OLLER, JOSEPH WILSON and LORI HINNANT, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) 08/19 — Authorities in Spain and France pressed the search Saturday for the supposed ringleader of an Islamic extremist cell that carried out vehicle attacks in Barcelona and a seaside resort, as the investigation focused on links among the Moroccan members and the house where they plotted the carnage.

Early Saturday, police searched two buses in northwest Catalonia in the hunt for any remaining members of the cell. Nothing was found in the searches in Girona and Garrigas, police tweeted.

Across the Pyrenees, French police carried out extra border checks on people coming from Spain — a routine beefing-up of patrols anytime a neighboring country flags a potential risk, a French security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. No arrests were made.

French police officers check vehicles at the border crossing between Spain and France in Dantcharia, southwestern France, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. French police are carrying out extra border checks on people arriving from Spain as authorities search for a fugitive suspect in the Barcelona attacks. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

 

Police also announced a series of controlled explosions Saturday in the town of Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where the attacks were planned in a rental house destroyed Wednesday by an apparently accidental blast. Authorities had initially written off the incident as a household gas accident, but took another look on Friday and returned on Saturday.

Police believe the Wednesday night blast, which killed at least one person and injured one of the people currently in custody, actually prevented a far deadlier attack using explosives, forcing the extremists to use more “rudimentary” vehicles instead.

In a tweet Saturday, Catalan police urged Alcanar residents not to be alarmed by the controlled explosions.

Police also said tests were underway to determine if human remains found at the house on Friday were from a second victim.

In the carnage claimed by the Islamic State group, a white van swerved onto Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas pedestrian promenade Thursday afternoon, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100 as it plowed down unsuspecting tourists and locals. A few hours later, five extremists began mowing down people along the boardwalk in the seaside resort of Cambrils.

One woman died and five others were injured before police shot and killed all five attackers. They were armed with an axe, knives and fake explosive belts.

Authorities said the two attacks were related and the work of a large terrorist cell that had been plotting for a long time from the house in Alcanar, 200 kilometers (125 miles) down the coast from Barcelona.

One of the main suspects in the attacks, Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan, was believed to be at large. His name figures on a police list of four main suspects sought in the attacks. All the suspects on the list hail from Ripoll, a quiet, upscale town of 10,000 about 100 kilometers north of Barcelona.

On Friday, police searched the apartment of Ripoll’s imam, neighbors said. An apparent search warrant seen by The Associated Press authorized police to extract any terrorism-related “weapons, ammunition, explosives, instruments, documents or papers” found in the apartment.

The suspect list was issued throughout Spain and into France, according to a Spanish official and a French police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the document.

The French official said Spain had flagged a rented Kangoo utility vehicle that was believed to have been rented in Spain by a suspect in Thursday’s attacks that might have crossed the border.

Also named on the list is 17-year-old Moussa Oukabir, whose brother Driss reported his documents stolen to police in Ripoll. Ripoll’s mayor confirmed the documents were found in one of the vehicles used in the attacks.

The brothers were born and raised in Ripoll, where the family’s first-floor apartment was searched Friday. No one was home.

Neighbors said they were shocked by the news of Moussa Oukabir’s alleged involvement. One teenager, who identified himself only by his first name, Pau, said they played together when they were younger and he was “a good boy.”

In addition to the five people killed in Cambrils, police said they arrested two people Friday, after the two arrests a day earlier. In custody are three Moroccans and one Spaniard, none with terrorism-related records.

“We are not talking about a group of one or two people, but rather a numerous group,” regional Interior Ministry chief Joaquim Forn told Onda Cero radio.

The sheer size of the cell recalled the November 2015 attacks in Paris, in which trained Islamic State attackers struck the national stadium, a concert hall and bars and restaurants nearly simultaneously. Since then, the extremist group has steadily lost ground in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, most recently with its defeat in Mosul.

“This shows there is no correlation between what is happening over there with Daesh and the operational capacity of the group,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French security analyst, using another name for the group.

Spanish authorities had not yet drawn any direct links between IS extremists and the suspects in the Spanish attacks, but the possibility that members of the Spanish group could still be at large was chilling. Those who have survived prior attacks nearly always ended their lives with new bloodshed and a hail of police bullets.

“There is the danger they will not let themselves get caught and will do something dramatic,” said Alain Chouet, a former French intelligence official.

The attacks unnerved a country that hasn’t seen an Islamic extremist attack since 2004, when al-Qaida-inspired bombers killed 191 people in coordinated assaults on Madrid’s commuter trains. Unlike France, Britain, Sweden and Germany, Spain has largely been spared, thanks in part to a crackdown that has netted about 200 suspected jihadis in recent years.

On Saturday, Spain decided to maintain its terrorist threat alert at level 4, declaring that no new attacks were imminent. Interior Minister Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said the country would nevertheless reinforce security for events that draw large crowds and popular tourist sites.

Islamic extremists have targeted Europe’s major tourist attractions in recent years. Rented or hijacked vehicles have formed the backbone of a strategy to attack the West and its cultural symbols. Barcelona’s Las Ramblas is one of the most popular attractions in a city that swarms with foreign tourists in August.

The dead and wounded in the two attacks came from 34 countries.

___

AP writers Angela Charlton in Paris and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed.

https://www.apnews.com/42a5e5fe99ec431eb0fe609a23fe0dd4/Spain,-France-press-manhunt-for-ringleader-in-dual-attacks

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Posted in: Arrests, Border Patrol, Counter-Terrorism, Explosives, Extremism/Extremist Groups, Fugitives, Homicide, Injuries, International Policing, Islamic Terrorism/Extremism, Mass Casualty Attacks, National Security, Police, Terrorism, Use of Deadly Force

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

fourteen − six =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.