BARCELONA, Spain -- A white van ploughed into pedestrians on Thursday in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas avenue killing 13 people and leaving another 50 wounded, in what police called a terror attack.
Two armed men were also reported to be holed up in a bar in Barcelona's city center where gunshots were heard. There was no immediate police confirmation of the report. El Pais newspaper reported that the van was rented by a man with a Moroccan name, Driss Oukabir, in the town of Santa Perpetua de la Mogada, just north of Barcelona.
One witness described the van "weaving left and right, trying to hit people as fast as possible." Shocking, graphic images on social media showed at least a dozen seriously injured people lying on the ground, some being helped by police and passers by.
Another winess told Univision News that he watched in horror as the van sped the wrong way down the street, and described hearing screams of those in its path.
Police cordoned off the broad, pedestrian zone, ordering stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. 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.
The deadliest recent attack in Spain was in March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.
Cars, trucks and vans have been used in multiple extremist attacks in Europe in the last year:
- the driver of a tractor-trailer targeted Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people.
- In December 2016, 12 people died after a driver used a hijacked trick to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.
- in London, a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in March , killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death
- also in London, four men drove onto the sidewalk of London Bridge and rampaged with knives nearby, killing eight in June.
- and man drove into pedestrians leaving a London mosque later in June.