The Latest: French police say arrest unrelated to attack

AP News
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Posted: Aug 19, 2017 5:36 PM
The Latest: French police say arrest unrelated to attack

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on the Spain attacks (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

Police in the southern French city of Nimes have arrested a man unlawfully carrying a pistol into a train station, but say he is not linked to the attacks in Barcelona.

After an evacuation and police operation at the train station Saturday night, the historic city quickly returned to normal, with police returning to their posts.

A national police spokesman said the operation began when a passenger alerted police to a man with a weapon. Police quickly found and arrested him, said the spokesman, who was not authorized to be publicly named.

The spokesman said the man has no apparent connection to Thursday's attacks around Barcelona, about 380 kilometers southwest of Nimes. French authorities increased checks of its border with Spain after the attacks, and one suspect is believed at large.

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10:50 p.m.

Catalan regional police say they are mounting major road blocks throughout the northeastern region, warning people they may encounter traffic jams on different roads.

Police in the region are searching for at least one vehicle attack suspect believed to be on the run.

The force Friday said there was extra security at Montilivi football stadium in the city of Gerona, north of Barcelona, where local team Girona played Atletico de Madrid. A minute's silence was observed before the match started.

Security is also expected to be tightened for FC Barcelona's match Sunday evening against Betis in the city's 100,000-seat Camp Nou stadium.

10:35 p.m.

French authorities say a police operation is underway at a train station near the Spanish border and all passengers have been evacuated.

A national police official said the operation began Saturday night after passengers reported seeing armed individuals in the Nimes train station. The official described it as a "verification" operation and said no shots had been fired.

Another security official said police are working to verify whether the activity had any link to the attacks Thursday around Barcelona.

The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named, said no one has been reported hurt in the operation.

The Tour of Spain cycling race kicked off from Nimes earlier Saturday under heavy security.

French authorities stepped up controls on the border with Spain after the Barcelona attacks. One suspect is believed on the run.

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9 p.m.

More than 20 people, including small children, have created a human tower among the crowds visiting the attack site on Barcelona's Las Ramblas promenade in homage to the victims.

The performance Saturday was greeted by strong applause when a young child with a protective helmet on climbed over his colleagues to reach the top of the multi-level tower.

Building human towers, or castells, are a very popular cultural event in many town festivals in Catalonia and date back to the 18th century.

Teams compete to build the tallest and most complex towers. A castell is considered successful when it is built and taken apart without anyone falling.

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8:30 p.m.

Spain's king and queen have paid a somber visit to the Las Ramblas attack site in Barcelona, placing a wreath and two candles on the ground in memory of the victims.

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia were accompanied Saturday by Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau. As he left, the king shook hands with bystanders. Shouts of "Long live the king!" and others for Spain, Catalonia and Barcelona could be heard.

Earlier, the royal couple met with victims hospitalized after Thursday's van attack — including one family in which two children and their father were recovering — and spoke with the medical staff at Barcelona's Hospital del Mar.

Catalonia's emergency services said by Saturday night, 53 attack victims remained in the hospital, with 13 of them in critical condition.

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7:25 p.m.

The families of a group of young men in northern Spain who are attack suspects are denouncing terrorism.

The families from Ripoll, where the entire Islamic State cell behind the deadly attacks in Barcelona and a seaside town is believed to have originated, arrived in a group Saturday in the town's central square. Mothers and sisters tearfully insisted they did not know what had happened to their sons and brothers.

Police on Saturday searched the home of a missing imam who is believed to have been the group's ideological leader. The imam hasn't been seen in Ripoll since June, according to the mosque where he abruptly quit his job.

An official with knowledge of the investigation said authorities are looking into whether the imam was killed Wednesday in a botched bomb-making operation in a house south of Barcelona.

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5:40 p.m.

A police official in Spain says an imam whose home was searched as part of the investigation into two deadly vehicle attacks is believed to be the radicalizing force behind the cell of young men — and is now thought to have died in an explosion linked to the attacks.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the new suspicions surrounding imam Abdelbaki Es Satty. Officials in Es Satty's former mosque in the northern town of Ripoll, which he left abruptly in June, on Saturday denounced the attacks in Barcelona and a nearby seaside town.

The mosque president, Ali Yassine, said Es Satty told him he wanted to return to Morocco for three months and hasn't seen him since. The police official says Es Satty is believed to have died in an explosion Wednesday that destroyed a house south of Barcelona.

The two vehicle attacks in Spain left 14 dead and over 120 wounded. Possible suspects whose names have emerged so far in the investigation are all from Ripoll.

— By Joseph Wilson, Alex Oller and Lori Hinnant

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5:10 p.m.

The Muslim community in the northern Spanish town of Ripoll has condemned the two deadly vehicle attacks that have been blamed on some local Moroccans.

In a notice posted on a Ripoll mosque Saturday, the Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll said it wanted to offer its sympathy to the families of the victims and its solidarity with Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain.

It said: "Faced with this criminal act, the Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll reiterates its complete commitment to the fight against any form of terrorism, and we hope that those responsible for this attack are arrested and taken before a judge as soon as possible."

Most of the main suspects in the twin attacks were Moroccans from Ripoll. The attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils left 14 people dead and over 120 injured.

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4:25 p.m.

Catalan emergency services say they have identified seven of the 14 people killed in the attacks in Barcelona and the nearby seaside town of Cambrils.

Of the 13 dead from the Barcelona attack, officials have identified four Spaniards, two Portuguese and one Italian. Family members or government officials also say an American man, another Italian man and a woman from Belgium were also killed there.

The one fatality from the attack in Cambrils was a Spanish woman.

The emergency service says Saturday that 54 people remained in the hospital, 12 of them in critical condition. They say 78 people have been released after being treated.

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3:45 p.m.

Excavation work is continuing at a house south of Barcelona where, according to Spanish police, members of an Islamic extremist cell plotted their attacks.

The deputy mayor of Alcanar, Jordi Bort, says police are trying to determine if any explosives were still in the house, and to secure them through controlled explosions.

The house was effectively destroyed on Wednesday during an accidental explosion. Authorities had initially dismissed the blast as a household gas accident, but now say it appears to be related to the plans for an even more deadly attack involving gas or explosives.

One person was killed during the Wednesday blast. Bort says police are also looking to determine if human remains found at the site belong to a second victim. Bort says so far positive identification hasn't been possible because DNA results haven't come in yet.

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3:30 p.m.

Muslims in the hometown of suspects arrested over last week's attacks in Spain have expressed their condolences to the victims.

In a note posted Saturday on the door of the mosque in Ripoll, a quiet, upscale town of 10,000 about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Barcelona, the community said it condemned the attack.

It said "The Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll expresses its strongest condemnation and rejection of the terrorist attack committed on Thursday in Barcelona.

"Catalan Muslims express their sympathy for the families of the victims, wishing for the complete recovery of the injured, and offering their solidarity with the people of Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain.

"Faced with this criminal act, the Annour Islamic Community of Ripoll reiterates its complete commitment to the fight against any form of terrorism, and we hope that those responsible for this attack are arrested and taken before a judge as soon as possible."

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2:55 p.m.

Spain's king and queen have visited the victims of the van attack in Barcelona who are recovering in local hospitals.

A video posted on the Royal House Twitter account shows King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia visiting patients and speaking with the medical staff of Barcelona's Hospital del Mar.

The royal couple visited one family in which two children and their father were recovering from wounds received when a van plowed down the city's main pedestrian promenade, killing 13 people and injuring 120 on Thursday.

A separate car attack a few hours later in the nearby coastal town of Cambrils killed one person and injured five early Friday.

Catalonia's emergency services say by Saturday, 54 people remained in the hospital, with 12 of them in critical condition, from both attacks.

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2:15 p.m.

Catalan police are confirming that the manhunt underway for any remaining members of the Islamic extremist cell is focusing on Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan.

Police spokesman Albert Oliva says police have carried out nine searches of apartments in Ripoll, the northern Catalan town where Abouyaaquoub and other suspects lived.

Oliva said Saturday: "We can confirm that the manhunt is on for the person" identified in the media. Spanish media have named Abouyaaquoub as the presumed ringleader of the cell and driver of the van that plowed into pedestrians in Barcelona.

Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has declared that the cell was effectively broken after five members were killed, four were in detention and as many as two were killed in a previous explosion. That leaves only one remaining member: Abouyaaquoub.

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2:00 p.m.

Italy's foreign ministry is confirming a third Italian was killed in the dual attacks in Spain.

The ministry said in a statement Saturday that Carmen Lopardo, 80, was killed in the "vile terrorist attack in Barcelona."

News reports said Lopardo had immigrated to Argentina in 1950 and was visiting Barcelona.

Two other Italians were among the 14 dead: Bruno Gulotta, 35, and Luca Russo, 25.

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1:45 p.m.

A small group of Muslims have gathered at Barcelona's Las Ramblas promenade to insist they aren't terrorists in the wake of the twin vehicle attacks that killed 14 people and injured dozens.

The protest by about 100 members of Barcelona's Muslim community was held at the Canaletas Fountain at the top of the promenade.

They shouted "We are not terrorists" and "Islam is peace."

Catalan's Moroccan community, in particular, has been in the spotlight after the four main suspects in the attacks claimed Moroccan roots.

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1:30 p.m.

Portugal's prime minister says a 20-year-old woman from Lisbon is among those killed in the Barcelona attacks.

The woman, whose 74-year-old grandmother was also killed in Thursday's attack on Las Ramblas, had initially been considered missing but Prime Minister Antonio Costa confirmed her death in a statement to reporters Saturday.

Portuguese media reported that the two were in Barcelona to celebrate the grandmother's birthday. Their names were not released.

The two Portuguese women are among 14 people killed in car attacks on Barcelona and the town of Cambrils, as part of what authorities call a terrorist plot claimed by the Islamic State group.

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1:15 p.m.

Spanish authorities have decided to maintain the country's terrorist threat rating at level 4, declaring that no new attacks were imminent.

Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido says Saturday that the country would nevertheless reinforce security for events that draw large crowds and popular tourist sites.

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11:45 a.m.

French police are carrying out extra border checks on people arriving from Spain as authorities search for a fugitive suspect in the Barcelona attacks.

No arrests had been made by Saturday morning, according to a French security official, who described the checks along the normally open border as routine whenever neighboring countries signal a potential risk.

Another French security official said Spanish authorities flagged a Kangoo utility vehicle believed to have been rented in Spain by a suspect in Thursday's attacks and that may have crossed the nearby border into France.

Both officials were not authorized to be publicly named.

At multiple border posts in the winding roads crossing the western Pyrenees on Saturday, gendarmes stopped certain vehicles to check drivers' IDs and the contents of their cars. They targeted primarily vans, trucks and utility vehicles.

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10 a.m.

Catalan police say they are carrying out controlled explosions in the town where an extremist cell plotted the attacks in Barcelona and a seaside resort.

In a tweet Saturday, police urged residents of Alcanar not to be alarmed by the detonations in the town, where they believe the extremists rented a house used to prepare their attacks.

The house was destroyed by an apparently accidental explosion on Wednesday. Police believe the blast actually prevented a far more deadlier attack using explosives, forcing the extremists to use more "rudimentary" vehicles instead.

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9:30 a.m.

Representatives from the Spanish and Catalan government are meeting to determine the terrorist threat level for the country and its Catalan region, after Barcelona and the southern resort town of Cambrils were hit with terrorist attacks.

Following the Thursday afternoon and early Friday morning attacks that killed 14 people and wounded more than a hundred, Spain's threat level is now four on a scale that goes to five, a ranking that would warrant military deployments.

Authorities say the attacks were the work of a large terrorist cell that had been plotting for a long time from a house in Alcanar, 200 kilometers (124 miles) down the coast from Barcelona.

Senior police official Josep Lluis Trapero said that an apparently accidental butane gas explosion at the house, which killed one person, likely prevented the suspects from carrying out a far deadlier attack.

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9:15 a.m.

The Philippines government says a child missing after a vehicle plowed into pedestrians in Barcelona is the 7-year-old son of a Filipino woman who had been living in Australia.

The Philippines' Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Arriola said in a statement on Saturday that the 43-year-old Filipino woman was seriously injured in Thursday's attack. She had been based in Australia for the past three or four years.

Arriola says the woman and her son were in Barcelona to attend the wedding of a cousin from the Philippines.

Arriola says the woman's British husband is en route to Barcelona to help find his son. Arriola says the boy was separated from his mother during the attack.

Australia's prime minister has urged people to pray for the child.

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5:15 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked people to pray for a young Australian boy who is missing after a vehicle attack on a popular Barcelona promenade that killed 13 people.

Turnbull said Saturday that the boy's mother was badly injured and is in a hospital following Friday's attack at the Las Ramblas promenade. Turnbull says the boy's family is searching for him. He did not release the boy's name.

Turnbull says: "All of us as parents know the anguish his father is going through, and his whole family is going through, as they rush to seek to find him in Barcelona."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says four Australians were injured in the attack.

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2:35 a.m.

Police in Catalonia say they have searched two buses in their hunt for violent extremists believed responsible for a pair of deadly attacks in the northwestern region of Spain.

Police say on their Twitter feed that they searched the buses in Girona and Garrigas, towns in the northwest of Catalonia, but the operation yielded nothing of importance. They provided no further information.

Authorities launched a manhunt for members of what they believe to be a Catalonia-based extremist group after 14 people were killed and more than 100 injured in attacks in Barcelona on Thursday and in Cambrils, south of Barcelona, on Friday.

Officials say at least one suspect is still at large.

Police say they have identified the five people, presumed to be the attackers, shot to death by police in the Cambrils incident but gave no details.

Four people have been arrested as part of the investigation.

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12:50 a.m.

Surveillance video from inside a Barcelona museum captured images of the van used in the fatal attack on pedestrians speeding down the Las Ramblas promenade where 13 people were killed and many more were wounded.

The video shows a person with a stroller just barely getting out of the white van's way and other people on the walkway scattering as it barreled down the walkway.

The footage was shot Thursday from a security camera inside the Erotic Museum of Barcelona on an upper floor that pointed toward a window with a view of the promenade.

Museum goers who apparently either heard the van or people outside just after it went by are seen in the images gathering near the window and looking outside.

Authorities said the assailants after striking in Barcelona drove a second vehicle to the resort town of Cambrils and fatally injured one person early Friday morning.

Police shot five of those attackers dead.

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12:10 a.m. Saturday

President Donald Trump has personally offered his condolences to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after Thursday's deadly van attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils.

The White House says Trump pledged to support Spanish authorities in their investigation and in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Trump initially offered supportive words to Spain in a tweet Thursday after a van plowed through pedestrians in Barcelona. Thirteen people were killed. The State Department says at least one American was killed and one was injured in that attack.

One person was killed in a separate van attack in Cambrils, Spain