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Barcelona suspect admits group was planning larger attack in Spain

© Gabriel Bouys, AFP | The Spanish court where the four suspects in last week's Catalonia attacks appeared before a judge on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-08-23

An alleged member of an Islamist group that carried out the Barcelona van attack told a Spanish court on Tuesday that the group had been planning a much bigger attack on monuments using explosives, a judicial source said.

The testimony to Spain's High Court came from Mohamed Houli Chemlal, who was arrested after being hurt in a blast at a house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, a day before Thursday's van attack on the crowded Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona which killed 13 people.

The four suspects, the only ones still alive among the 12 men thought to constitute the group, were brought from Barcelona to Madrid where they were taken to the High Court under tight security for the hearing. A Spanish High Court judge has ordered two Spain attack suspects held without bail, one detained for another 72 hours and a fourth freed.

Two of the suspects told the presiding judge that an imam from the town of Ripoll, identified as Moroccan Abdelbaki Es Satty, was the instigator of the plot, a source familiar with the case said.

The imam died in the same blast that wounded Chemlal the night before the Barcelona assault as the group was preparing explosives to launch a larger attack.

Police on Monday shot dead 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, whom they had identified as the driver of the van that last Thursday careered along the packed Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona, leaving a trail of dead and 120 injured from 34 countries.

After the attack, Abouyaaqoub escaped on foot, stabbing to death a man who was parking his car and then fleeing in the vehicle.

Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia said on Tuesday he walked some 40 km (25 miles) from Sant Just Desvern, the town on the outskirts of Barcelona where he ditched the hijacked car, to Subirats, where he was shot dead.

Abouyaaqoub, who had changed clothes, walked by night and hid during the day, the paper said citing sources involved in the investigation.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the van attack and a separate deadly assault, hours later, in the coastal resort of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.

In Cambrils, a car rammed into passers-by and its occupants got out and tried to stab people. The five assailants were shot dead by police, while a Spanish woman died in the attack.

Video: Witness led police to suspected van driver

Most of the 12 suspects lived in the town of Ripoll, set in forested hills beneath the Pyrenees north of Barcelona near the French border, and most were young men of Moroccan descent.

French broadcaster BFM, who cited a source close to the investigation, reported Tuesday that two members of the jihadist cell spent time in the Paris region the weekend before the attacks.

One of the men who appeared before investigating magistrate Fernando Andreu was Driss Oukabir, whose passport was found in the abandoned van after the Barcelona attack. He turned himself in to police, protesting his innocence and saying his younger brother Moussa Oukabir, 17, who was killed in Cambrils, had stolen his documents.

Also in court was Mohammed Aalla, owner of the Audi car used in the Cambrils attack. One of his brothers, Said, was killed in Cambrils and a second, Youssef, is believed by police to have died in an explosion at a house used by the plotters at Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, the day before the Barcelona attack.

Also appearing in court Salah el Karib, who ran an internet cafe in Ripoll that, according to La Vanguardia newspaper, was used to send money to Morocco

Tuesday's closed-door hearing was expected to end in the suspects being remanded in custody while the judge conducts an investigation that could take months or even years before a trial is organised.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-08-22

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