Spain Attack Update
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We are yet again covering the aftermath of terror attacks in Europe involving vehicles. One was in Barcelona, Spain, another just south of that city.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What happened? Oh, God.
GREENE: It was about 5 p.m. local time in Barcelona yesterday, and a driver rammed a white van through a crowd of people in the city's historic Las Ramblas district.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The van reportedly swerved back and forth at high speed, chasing down pedestrians, killing at least 13 and injuring scores more. The Islamic State is claiming responsibility. Then, early this morning, another vehicle attack in the town of Cambrils. That's about 75 miles south of Barcelona. One person was killed, and five suspects were shot dead by police. For more, we're joined now by NPR's Frank Langfitt, who is in Barcelona. Thank you for being with us, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Ailsa.
CHANG: So let's start with the first attack, the one in Barcelona. We understand three people have been arrested. What do we know about those attackers?
LANGFITT: Well, we know that two of them were arrested in a town an hour inland, including a Moroccan man whose identification documents were used to rent the van that was involved in the attack here in Barcelona. Barcelona Police are saying that neither of the people who were arrested appear to be the driver who escaped on foot, so they're still actually trying to hunt the person down.
CHANG: OK. What about the second attempted attack? Authorities say that involved people with known jihadist ties and that it seems that the attacks were connected.
LANGFITT: Yeah. They're connecting all of these events. The scenario last night - this was actually early this morning - the cops had set up a roadblock in Cambrils, as you were saying. It's a seaside resort south of Barcelona. Now, there were five men, and they were driving through a roadblock - a police roadblock - around 3 a.m. They hit pedestrians and a police officer. Then, they rolled their vehicle. They get out of the car, and they stabbed another pedestrian. Then, police shot and killed all five of these guys. The head of the national court here that deals with terror offenses said all five men had known links to jihadi - jihadism.
CHANG: And there was also a third terrorist, an incident an explosion in another coastal town. What happened?
LANGFITT: Yeah. This is - there's a lot going on here, so let me just try to work it through for you. Early Thursday morning, authorities said a house blew up in a town called Alcanar. That's another coastal town about three hours' drive south of Barcelona. All of this really happening in about a three-hour drive area along the coast. And they say that jihadis were preparing explosives there. The explosion was huge. It actually - if you see it, it leveled a house. There's rubble everywhere.
And they said one of the people who was involved in that [inaudible] in the house was killed, and police arrested another one who had been injured in the blast and also they believe was a jihadi. And they're saying that this explosion was also connected to these two attacks. So they're looking - what it seems to be is a number of people working together and being involved in a series of attacks in the last maybe 36 hours here along the northeastern coast of Spain.
CHANG: And unfortunately, I'm sure a lot of people in Spain remember that 13 years ago in Madrid, there was a bomb attack - a coordinated bomb attack - at the train station that killed almost 200 people. And, of course, since then, there have been vehicle attacks in Europe - in Nice, France, in Berlin, on the London Bridge. I'm wondering, has Spain, throughout all this time, been in a kind of perpetual high state of alert?
LANGFITT: No. You know, it's been on and off, as it is for most countries dealing with this. They've been on high alert really in the last couple of years because these attacks that you're talking about. Also, remember, if you go back to the '80s and '90s, Spain has had its own homegrown terrorist problem with ETA, the Basque separatists.
LANGFITT: And they did bombings back then.
CHANG: And what is the mood there right now where you are?
LANGFITT: Well, I was just out on Las Ramblas a little earlier today. The crowds are out. They're maybe a fifth of what you'd normally see. It's normally really, really jammed. And I talked to a guy named Cesar Castro (ph). He runs a clothing shop along the street. He said he sheltered people during the attack. And the day before, he was actually taking video on the street. And he said to his wife, you know, a person could drive a van right down here. He said he wasn't surprised by what happened here. Here's how he put it.
CESAR CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).
LANGFITT: All people running. He sort of knew that this was going to happen, Ailsa. He said he'd already run it through his mind many times before. He'd seen this on TV, the other attacks in Paris, in London. And he said, here, it was time. We were expecting it. So all those attacks, especially with the vans in Paris, London, even Charlottesville recently, people are sort of - it's not something that surprises them anymore.
CHANG: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in Barcelona, Spain. Thank you so much, Frank.
LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.