'Bigger attack was planned', Barcelona terror suspect tells court in Spain

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Agosto 23, 2017

Andreu will decide whether the four should be jailed or released.

Police said they tracked down 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub to a rural area near Barcelona and shot him after he held up what looked like an explosives belt and shouted "Allahu Akbar".

Two people have been charged with membership of a terrorist organisation, murder and explosives possession, and will be detained without bail.

At least one of the suspects also spent a night in Zurich last December, said Swiss police, adding that it was too early to speculate about any connections with Switzerland.

Spanish media have named the suspects as Driss Oukabir, Mohammed Aalla, Salh el Karib and Mohamed Houli Chemal.

The suspect, Abdelbaki Es Satty, was the former imam at a mosque in the town of Ripoll, according to The Wall Street Journal. Materials for making the group's preferred explosive, TATP, were found in the Alcanar house.

The men were arrested last week for their alleged involvement in the planning or execution of attacks in Barcelona on Thursday and the north-eastern resort town of Cambrils early on Friday.

Police said they had "scientific evidence" that Abouyaaqoub drove the van that barreled through Barcelona's crowded Las Ramblas promenade, mowing people down, then hijacked a auto and fatally stabbed its driver while making his getaway.

Abouyaaqoub is alleged to have escaped Barcelona after the August 17 attack after he hijacked a auto before driving it through a police checkpoint and later abandoning the vehicle. Later, five members of the cell drove into a crowd near a police checkpoint and killed a female bystander.

The other three were arrested in the small town of Ripoll north of Barcelona, where most of the members of the suspected cell had lived.

Still, there appeared to have been missed opportunities.

The director of the mosque where Essati preached and taught children Arabic and the Koran said they passed his name to local police as part of Spain's program to monitor the mosques.

La Vanguardia said Moroccan authorities had arrested a man who had been in touch with Moussa Oukabir, one of the suspects killed by police in Cambrils, and may have played a role in connecting the Catalonia-based cell with Islamic State.

A local government press conference is to begin shortly.

But Puigdemont told The Washington Post that information about a suspicious imam "was not in the hands of the Catalan police". "We heard a helicopter flying around and many police cars coming toward the gas station that is some 600 meters from the property", Ventura said. "Because Barcelona is strong and they will not be able to prevail with us". "They are our neighbors and therefore, the Catalan society, which is very diverse, is working well". Authorities believe the explosion was the result of a failed attempt to make a bomb and that the deadly vehicle attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were a fallback plot. Spanish officials blamed an al-Qaeda cell.

A bomb disposal robot was dispatched to examine the downed suspect before police determined the bomb belt was not real, Trapero said. Police think one is that of the imam and are awaiting final DNA confirmation.

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