On Aug. 17, 2017, an act of terror devastated the Las Ramblas district of Barcelona, Spain, a popular tourist destination. A van plowed through the shopping district, killing 14 people and injuring about 100. People from at least 34 countries were among those injured in the attacks. Eyewitnesses described the chaos, and reportedly saw people running into shops.
According to The Washington Times, in light of this being the first attack in the country in a dozen years, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for European security chiefs to meet and work to “establish more stable mechanisms to exchange information and adapt our intelligence agencies to the growing threat.”
The man who directed the attacks, Abdelbaki Essati, recruited young Islamic radicals to carry them out. Like the attacks in Brussels and Paris, Essati targeted young men, specifically sets of brothers, mostly under the age of 25. The New York Times speculates that this is because family ties make it more difficult for individuals to leave the group. Essati and many of the men suspected were living in the small town of Ripoll.
The families of the deceased suspects grieved, explaining their shock at their children’s actions. Essati was an imam, the prayer leader at the local mosque, and though many of the boys rarely attended, and were previously not very religious, they were brought under the influence of Essati. Rajoy also criticized the overreliance on electronic methods, speaking of a need for more human assets and upgrades to police fieldwork.
There is some concern and controversy after details came out about Essati eluding the attention of many European authorities, including surveillance, or lack thereof in France and Belgium. People are questioning why his terrorist cell could thrive, despite being watched by authorities in multiple European countries.The day following the Barcelona attack, five attackers drove into a crowd in a nearby coastal city, Cambrils, 70 miles away from Barcelona and another popular tourist destination. The terrorists were killed by the police.
In the two cities, the final death count came to 16, with many more injured. As of August 27, 19 were still hospitalized.
According to CNN, police found a house in Alcanar that was destroyed the evening before the attack because the materials that were supposed to be used as explosives in the attacks were detonated prematurely. Investigators found TATP, a powerful explosive used by Islamic radicals, in the remains of the house. TATP was used in numerous terrorist attacks in Europe, including the 2015 Paris attacks, the attacks in Brussels, as well as the Manchester bombing in May.
The explosion at the house in Alcanar meant that the attackers were unable to use the material as planned for the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks. Controversy developed as questions came up as to whether the attacks could have been revealed before, if authorities had gotten to the house sooner to investigate the explosion. It is speculated that Essati, the leader, was killed in the blast, as well as one other. Four suspects have been arrested, including Spanish and Moroccan citizens. King Felipe of Spain called for a 3-day period of mourning following these attacks. Half a million citizens marched in Barcelona following the attacks, united with the phrase “We are not afraid,” to show their political and social unity against terrorists.
Written by Mariah Partin, Staff Writer