Van Plows Into Crowd, Leaves 13 Dead in Barcelona Tourist Spot

An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. (AP Photo/Oriol Duran)

(CN) – Thirteen people were killed and 80 others injured on Thursday in what Spanish officials said was a terror attack by van in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district. Two men have been taken into custody. A third alleged accomplice was found dead.

Catalonia Police Major Josep Lluis Trapero said during a news conference that one of the men in custody is Moroccan and the other is a Spanish national from Melilla, a Spanish city on Africa’s north coast that neighbors Morocco.

The death toll was confirmed by Joaquim Forn, the interior minister of the Cattalan regional government via Twitter.

Earlier, Spanish police said the carnage was “massive.” They have also said reports of a hostage situation related to the van attack were unfounded.

Later on Wednesday there were reports of a second incident in which a car struck two police officers at a security check point on the west side of the city. The officers have reportedly sustained only minor injuries.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, without offering any evidence this was the case.

According to Spanish authorities, the incident began when a white van jumped the sidewalk in the busy tourist district, crashing into scores of pedestrians, Spain’s state-run television network reports.

Thus far there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Media outlets, including Cadena SER radio station and TV3, are reporting up to 13 dead. but an official death toll has not been issued. Police said earlier that one person has been confirmed dead, but that the death toll was expected to rise.

A Barcelona broadcaster , Tv3, also reported Thursday that the Spanish passport of a person of Moroccan origin was found at the scene of the attack that police say has left at least one person dead.

Children, some in tears, are escorted down a road in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Hundreds of people fled the scene in a panic, and residents and employees of local businesses are being told to stay out of the area.

Police cordoned off the broad, popular street, ordering stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of emergency services.

Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the center of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrianized path in the center of the street, but cars can travel on either side.

A White House official, speaking on background, said Chief of Staff John Kelly is aware of the developments and is keeping the president informed.

On Wednesday afternoon the president tweeted, “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” Earlier, first lady Melania Trump, sent her “thoughts and prayers” to Barcelona via Twitter.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department shortly after a van plowed into a crowd in Barcelona, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the incident “has the hallmarks of what appears to be yet another terrorist attack.”

He said U.S. diplomats in Spain are currently assisting Americans there and asked those who are safe to notify their friends and families.

Tillerson also warned  that the United States would never relent in tracking down terrorist suspects and holding them to account for their actions.

He said “terrorists around the world should know that the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice.”

Trapero said Thursday evening the van attack is “connected” to an explosion Wednesday night in a town south of the city in which one person died and injured several more.

He said the suspects were arrested in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll and in Alcanar, the site of the explosion. He says neither detained suspect was the driver of the van used in the fatal attack in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas district.

Joaquim Forn said late Thursday that three days of mourning have been declared to honor the attack victims.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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