Barcelona attack: Police name driver of van

Several were killed and dozens were injured after a van rammed through crowds of people in the heart of Barcelona on Thursday, August 17, 2017.

(CNN) — The man suspected of driving the van used in the Barcelona attack evaded capture just over an hour after the atrocity when he rammed through a checkpoint, Catalan police have revealed.

Authorities said the search for Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national, now extended across Europe.

He is thought to have been the only driver of the van that plowed his van into crowds on Las Ramblas just after 5pm Thursday, killing 13 people and injuring over 120 others, Catalan Interior Minister Joaquim Form told a news conference Monday.

Police said Abouyaaqoub fled the scene of the attack on foot and hijacked a car to escape. Abouyaaqoub stabbed the owner of the car, Pau Perez, as he parked the vehicle, and drove off with his body inside the car.

Police fired on the car after it rammed through a checkpoint just after 6pm night but Abouyaaqoub was able to flee a second time. Perez was found dead in the vehicle. He becomes the 15th victim of the attacks in Barcelona and the Catalan town of Cambrils, where one woman died early on Friday morning.

Spain’s Ministry of Interior tweeted a CCTV photo of Abouyaaqoub Monday, asking for it to be shared on social media.

Speaking to local radio Monday, Form said all the evidence pointed to Abouyaaqoub being the driver and that security services were working with other agencies around Europe to find him.

Police carried out more raids overnight at homes in the town of Ripoll, where many of the suspects in the attack lived, Forn said, according to Reuters.

Abouyaaqoub is one of 12 terror suspects linked to the Barcelona attack who did not have previous records or intelligence files related to terrorism, according to Trapero.

On Saturday, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoida said that the terror cell believed to be responsible for the attack on Las Ramblas and Cambrils, which left one dead and six injured, had been “completely dismantled.”

Three of the five suspects killed by police in Cambrils were identified by a Catalan police spokesman as Moussa Oukabir, Said Aallaa and Mohamed Hychami.

Eight of the 12 lived in Ripoll, a city north of Barcelona. Three were arrested, and one was Oukabir — one of the dead suspects. Another arrest was made in the village of Alcanar.

A neighbor of Oukabir in Ripoll, Raimon Garcia, said Oukabir was one of four siblings — two brothers and two sisters.

Oukabir’s brother, Driss, was among those arrested. He turned himself into police when his identification was found in the Barcelona van, telling authorities he wasn’t involved in the attack.

A man who claimed to be a cousin of the brothers said Moussa Oukabir was “brainwashed.”

A woman who lives next to a mosque in the neighborhood told CNN that she had witnessed the Oukabir brothers attending the place of worship “every day for many years.”

Imam link

The investigation has focused on a property in Alcanar, suspected of being used as a base to make explosives that could have caused even more devastating attacks had they not blown up prematurely on Wednesday.

One of those police believe to have died in the blast at Alcanar is Muslim cleric Abdelbakir El-Satty.

Catalan Justice Minister Carles Mundó i Blanch, also speaking at the press conference Monday, said El-Saty had served a jail sentence for drug trafficking in the past but this was in the province of Castellon, eastern Spain, not in Catalonia.

Spanish media reports have claimed that El-Satty shared a jail cell with one of the terrorists involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings which killed at least 191 people and left hundreds injured.

Responding to those reports, Blanch added: “We are not aware that this person had any communication with any inmate in any prison on Catalonia. He finished his sentence and went free.”

Bulldozer clears rubble in Alcanar

In Alcanar on Sunday, explosives experts brought in a bulldozer to clear rubble before conducting a number of controlled explosions at the site. The remains of two people have so far been found there.

So far, police have found the remains of more than 100 gas canisters on the site.

The city’s vice mayor, Jordi Bort, told CNN the house belonged to a bank and that the group had been squatting there illegally without its knowledge.

The town is home to a mix of residents and others who just spend holidays or weekends here, he said. Neighbors said they did not suspect any wrongdoing at the property.

The septic tank of the house, which had only one floor, was used as storage for the tanks and explosives, Bort

A source briefed on the investigation said a preliminary assessment indicated there were traces of the powerful explosive TATP in the rubble.

TATP is made by adding an acid to a mixture of acetone and hydrogen peroxide solution and can easily result in accidental detonation if mistakes occur in the preparation.

TATP was used in the November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels bombings and the May bombing in Manchester, England.

Many of those who have successfully made TATP received some form of terrorist training.

Camp Nou tribute

In the Camp Nou stadium on Sunday, Barcelona football club’s players led fans inside and outside the stadium in a tribute to the victims of Thursday’s attack.

The mood was somber as Barça’s supporters gathered to watch their team’s first league game of the season against Real Betis.

Before the match, applause rang out as both teams gathered in the center of the pitch with the match officials next to a banner that said: “TotsSomBarcelona,” or “We are all Barcelona.” The Barca players wore black armbands.

A minute’s silence was then observed, a mark of respect that was also made at other matches across Spain over the weekend.