Spanish police hunt driver who left trail of carnage in Barcelona



BARCELONA, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Spanish police have not yet identified the driver of a van that plowed into crowds in a tourist hotspot in Barcelona, killing 13 people and wounding scores of others, and are still searching for him, the regional police commander said on Friday.

Investigators were also trying to pin down links between the Barcelona attackers and a group of five assailants, armed with an axe and knives and wearing fake explosive belts, who were shot dead by police hours later in a seaside resort further down the Mediterranean coast.

SEE ALSO: California teacher says her husband is missing after Barcelona attack

The van driver fled after speeding along a pedestrianized section of Las Ramblas, the most famous boulevard in Barcelona, leaving a trail of dead and injured in the latest of a string of attacks across Europe in which militants have used vehicles as weapons.

Police chief Josep Lluis Trapero told a news conference that the driver may or may not be among the five people killed in the resort of Cambrils, 120 km (75 miles) from Barcelona, in the early hours of Friday after they drove their car at pedestrians and police officers.

A Spanish woman was killed in the Cambrils incident, while several other civilians and a police officer were injured.

Police have arrested four people in connection with the attacks, three of them Moroccan and one from Spain's North African enclave of Melilla, Trapero said. They were aged between 21 and 34, and none had a history of terrorism-related activities.

Police were searching for a man called Moussa Oukabir in connection with the attacks, a police source said, but it was unclear what his suspected role may be. Aged 17 or 18 and of Moroccan origin, he is the younger brother of one of the men arrested on Thursday, according to Spanish media reports.

Trapero said the two attacks in Catalonia had been planned for some time by people operating out of the town of Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona. Alcanar was the scene of an explosion in a house shortly before midnight on Wednesday, which police are now linking to the attacks.

Islamic State said the perpetrators of the van attack had been responding to its call for action by carrying out Thursday's rampage along an avenue thronged with tourists enjoying an afternoon stroll at the peak of the summer season.

Of 126 people injured in the two attacks, 65 were still in hospital and 17 were in a critical condition. The dead and injured came from 34 countries, ranging from France and Germany to Pakistan and the Philippines. Spanish media said several children were killed.

A judicial source said investigators believed a cell of at least eight people, possibly 12, may have been involved in the Barcelona and Cambrils operations and that it had been planning to use gas canisters.

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Van crashes into crowd in Barcelona
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Van crashes into crowd in Barcelona
People react as they leave a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least two people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack' and a police source said one suspect had left the scene and was 'holed up in a bar'. The police source said they were hunting for a total of two suspects. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen walk on the Rambla after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least two people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack' and a police source said one suspect had left the scene and was 'holed up in a bar'. The police source said they were hunting for a total of two suspects. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen and medical staff members stand in the entrance of a mall after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least two people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack' and a police source said one suspect had left the scene and was 'holed up in a bar'. The police source said they were hunting for a total of two suspects. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly woman accompanied by young people reacts after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least two people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack' and a police source said one suspect had left the scene and was 'holed up in a bar'. The police source said they were hunting for a total of two suspects. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman gestures as she is escorted out by Spanish policemen outside a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least 13 people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack'. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
Spanish policemen accompany people leaving the cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 50 on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least 13 people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack' and a police source said one suspect had left the scene and was 'holed up in a bar'. The police source said they were hunting for a total of two suspects. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 17: Paramedics are seen near to the scene of a terrorist attack in the Las Ramblas area on August 17, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Officials say 13 people are confirmed dead and at least 50 injured after a van plowed into people in the Las Ramblas area of the city this afternoon. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 17: Police officers take security measures at the area after a van plowed into the crowd, injuring several people in Barcelona, Spain on August 17, 2017. (Photo by Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A woman cries as she and a man are escorted by Spanish policemen outside a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least 13 people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack'. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY: People attend to injured persons at the scene after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Giselle Loots SPAIN OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT.
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY: People attend to injured persons at the scene after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Giselle Loots SPAIN OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURY: A dead person is seen at the scene after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Giselle Loots MANDATORY CREDIT. SPAIN OUT.
Two young girls run to leave a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona's most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least two people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain's second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a 'terrorist attack' and a police source said one suspect had left the scene and was 'holed up in a bar'. The police source said they were hunting for a total of two suspects. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman cries as she phones after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing one person and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Pau Barrena (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People leave a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing one person and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Pau Barrena (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
A still image from video shows a police officer gesturing while walking across a road, after a van crashed into people in the centre of Barcelona, Spain, August 17, 2017. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
A still image from video shows a police officer ushering people away on a street, after a van crashed into people in the centre of Barcelona, Spain, August 17, 2017. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
A still image from video shows a police cordon on a street in Barcelona, Spain following a van crash August 17, 2017. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
Abandoned air balloons of a street vendor tied to a chair fly at the empty Plaza de Catalunya after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 17: People move away from the area after a van plowed into the crowd, injuring several people in Barcelona, Spain on August 17, 2017. (Photo by Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A person is stretched out of a mall by medical staff members in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen stand next to vehicles in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A policemen stand as he blocks the street to a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters stands outside an evacuated mall after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical staff members and policemen stand in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman stands next to an ambulance after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Plain-clothes policemen phone as they walk past police cars in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A policemen and a medical staff member stand past police cars and an ambulance in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A person is stretched out of a mall by medical staff members in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed policecen stand in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
An armed policeman stands behind a tree in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed policemen arrive in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 17: A police stands as he blocks the traffic after a van plowed into the crowd, injuring several people in Barcelona, Spain on August 17, 2017. (Photo by Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pigeons gather on the empty Plaza de Catalunya after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a 'terrorist attack' after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
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As Spain began three days of mourning, people laid flowers and lit candles in memory of the victims along Las Ramblas. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe visited Barcelona's main square nearby to observe a minute's silence.

Defiant crowds later chanted "I am not afraid" in Catalan.

Foreign leaders voiced condemnation and sympathy, including French President Emmanuel Macron, whose nation has suffered some of Europe's deadliest recent attacks.

Islamist militants have staged several attacks across Europe in the past 13 months, killing over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.

In March 2004, Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people.

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