Barcelona: Vehicles are the new terror weapon of choice

This is a developing news story that will be updated as things happen.

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What’s happened


On Thursday and early Friday four related incidents occurred in and around Barcelona, tourist magnet and capital of Catalunya in north-east Spain. Catalan police attributed the attack to Jihadist terrorism.

Las Ramblas

  • The group calling itself Islamic State claimed responsibility on its media channel Amaq. 

FRANCE 24 Breaking on Twitter

🔴 #BREAKING – Islamic State group claims responsibility for Barcelona attack via its Amaq propaganda outlet


  • Earlier on Thursday, a house 200km south of Barcelona suffered an explosion, which government officials have linked to the Las Ramblas attack.
  • Officials said that the attackers may have been planning to use explosives during the attack. One person was killed.

San Just Desvern

  • At 1930 another car was driven into a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona. The driver was killed but police have not confirmed whether they were linked to the Las Ramblas attackers. 

Mossos on Twitter

19:24 Un conductor ha atropellado a 2 mossos en 1 control policial d #Barcelona y lo tenemos localizado en St Just Desvern TEDAX comprobando


  • At 1am on Friday, another vehicle attack took place at the Cambrils resort in Southern Barcelona, where police shot and killed five terrorist suspects.

Mossos on Twitter

Confirmamos que el 5º terrorista abatido en #Cambrils y que estaba herido, ha muerto / 5th terrorist wounded in #Cambrils finally has died

At least three people in the Catalan town of Ripoll have been arrested in relation to the attacks.

Mossos on Twitter

We have arrested a third person in Ripoll related to the attacks #Cambrils #Barcelona

From Nice to Barcelona

Barcelona has recently joined the growing list of vehicle attacks. These attacks, which require little skill or tactical expertise, show how increasingly difficult they are to police. Let’s look back at the timeline of terrorist attacks from Nice to Barcelona.

July 14, 2016, Nice 

It started in Nice. A 31 year old Tunisian drove a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing 86 people and injuring more than 200.

28 November, Ohio 

A student at Ohio State University rammed a car into pedestrians and then began attacking passers-by with a knife. He was shot dead by a police officer after injuring 11 people.

December 19, Berlin

A terrorist drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 and injuring more than 50.

March 22, 2017, London

On London’s Westminster Bridge, attacker Khalid Masood rammed into pedestrians. Five people were killed and more than 50 were injured.

April 7, Stockholm

In central Stockholm, a 39-year-old Uzbekistan national drove a stolen truck into a crowd, killing four people.

June 3, London

Three terrorists, wearing hoax suicide vests, drove a rented van into pedestrians on London Bridge. They then went on a stabbing spree in Borough Market where civilians were socializing. Eight were killed and dozens injured.

June 19, Paris 

A car loaded with guns and gas canisters hit a police van before bursting into flame on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. No one else was hurt.

June 19, London

47-year-old Darren Osborne drove into Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park, leaving one dead and 10 injured.

August 9, Paris

In a Parisian suburb, a man drove a BMW into a group of soldiers on patrol, injuring three of them.

The state of car terrorism

The rising number of vehicle attacks in Europe on so-called “soft targets” – large groups of civilians, usually pedestrians, with low to no security – since July 2016 highlights the difficulties authorities face in policing terror.

The use of everyday technology and objects, like cars, fake explosive belts (link to Catalonia police force) and DIY suicide vests, like those used in the London Bridge/Borough Market attack, demonstrate new tactics terrorists are using to threaten Europe.

Vehicles are obviously easier to acquire than explosives and don’t require expert knowledge.

Amateurish methods could be a direct response to widespread counter-terror laws coming in across Europe – what the European Consilium said is a “comprehensive approach” to terror – but self-starter terrorists using DIY techniques expose clear security holes.

In June 2017, shortly after the London Bridge attack, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said she was considering new vehicle hire rules, to prevent them being used in a terrorist attack, according to the Financial Times.

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