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Police In Spain Kill Suspected Van Driver In Barcelona Attack

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Spain, police have killed the lone fugitive of a 12-man Spanish terror cell claimed by ISIS. That's the group that carried out last week's fatal van attack in Barcelona. Another four members of this group are still alive and in police custody. They appeared in a Madrid court under tight security. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, even with the terror cell crushed, people in the coastal city still do not feel safe.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, announced the news.

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CATALAN PRESIDENT CARLES PUIGDEMONT: Just before 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the Catalan police had shoot dead Younes Abouyaaqoub, direct perpetrator of the attack in Barcelona causing the death of 14 people.

NELSON: Police say the young Moroccan immigrant drove the van last Thursday that ran over pedestrians on a famous Barcelona promenade. He then ditched the vehicle and stole a car after fatally stabbing its driver, Pau Perez. He was a 34-year-old NGO worker and soccer fan from Spain. For four days, Abouyaaqoub evaded an intensive manhunt, including in the charming Catalan town where he and most of the other suspects grew up. The 22-year-old was finally spotted yesterday west of Barcelona by two civilians who recognized him from TV. Two local officers found him crouching in a vineyard and demanded to see his ID.

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JOSEP LLUIS TRAPERO: (Speaking Spanish).

NELSON: Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero says Abouyaaqoub opened his jacket and shirt to reveal what looked like an explosives belt and shouted, allahu akbar. The officer shot him. But the bomb turned out to be a fake. Similar to the ones worn by some of the other terror cell members shot last week in the seaside town of Cambrils.

At a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers and notes for the terrorist cell's victims on Las Ramblas, Barcelona native Hector Campos took little comfort in the news.

HECTOR CAMPOS: (Speaking Spanish).

NELSON: He says, "do I feel safer? No. Have we stopped terrorism with this? No." Moroccan-Canadian tourist, Adnan Akram says what happened to Abouyaaqoub is justice. But that it's also sad.

ADNAN AKRAM: (Speaking French).

NELSON: He talks about coming with his wife to Barcelona because it seems safe compared to other European cities. Behind them, the crowd applauds several police officers walking by in a plea of sorts for them to make it safe again. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Barcelona. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.