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Police Hunt Focuses on One Barcelona Suspect--Update

20 Aug 2017 1:45 pm
By Jeannette Neumann 

BARCELONA -- Spanish authorities said Sunday that one man is still at large in their hunt for those responsible for Thursday's terror attacks in Spain -- and two of the other at-large suspects had most likely died.

Spanish authorities had indicated Saturday that they suspected two of the three men still unaccounted for in the attack were dead. On Sunday, they said they were more certain that those two -- whom they didn't identify -- had died in an explosion in the town of Alcanar.

Police believe the suspects were building bombs to carry out at least one attack using explosives in Barcelona. Those plans were foiled when the material accidentally exploded on Wednesday night.

That person is 22-year-old Moroccan-born Younes Abouyaaqoub, according to a person close to the investigation, who investigators hypothesize might have been the driver of the van that sped down Barcelona's most famous boulevard of Las Ramblas and plowed into people, before fleeing on foot.

Mr. Abouyaaqoub was living in Ripoll, a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees that has become a focal point in the probe into Spain's deadliest terror attack in more than a decade, the person said.

No one was home at his home in Ripoll on Saturday, and neither he nor his relatives could be located for comment.

On Thursday, a terrorist rammed a van into pedestrians in central Barcelona, killing 13. Hours later, another car plowed into people in the beach town of Cambrils -- 75 miles southwest Barcelona -- killing another person. Mr. Trapero said Sunday police think there only the driver was in the car.

Police killed five people in a shoot-out following the second incident. Four others have been arrested.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assaults via its official Amaq news agency, but Spanish police haven't said whether they have any evidence of the group's involvement.

Spanish and Catalan officials disagreed about the progress of the investigation Saturday, underscoring tensions between the central government and the Catalonia region, which is set to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in October.

"We can say that the cell in Barcelona has been completely dismantled," Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said Saturday.

Later, Catalan Interior Minister Joaquim Forn said, "We can't say the investigation is finished until we locate or detain all those who we think form part of this terror cell."

Police found scores of gas canisters at the scene in Alcanar, which a local official said the plotters may have intended to pack into two vehicles with triggering devices to launch a far more devastating act of terror.

"They wanted to do one or several bigger attacks, but because it went wrong," they resorted to ramming vehicles into pedestrians, said Mr. Trapero, the Catalan regional police chief.

People in Ripoll who knew the young men under investigation in the attack said they had appeared to be well integrated into local life.

"All of them have normal relationships with Spaniards," said a resident who knows some of the men. "Among themselves, they spoke Catalan to each other on the street."

Marina Force in London, Noemie Bisserbe in Paris, Jon Sindreu and Kavita Mokha in Ripoll, Spain, and Marjorie Olster in Beirut contributed to this article.

Write to Jeannette Neumann at jeannette.neumann@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 20, 2017 09:45 ET (13:45 GMT)

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