Pope Francis expresses ‘great concern’ at Barcelona terror attack

Children, some in tears, are escorted down a road in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona say a white van has mounted a sidewalk, struck several people in the city's Las Ramblas district. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)Children, some in tears, are escorted down a road in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona say a white van has mounted a sidewalk, struck several people in the city's Las Ramblas district. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Pope Francis has expressed “great concern” at this afternoon’s deadly attack in Barcelona, Spain, where a van drove into a pedestrian zone killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 80 others. He expressed his closeness to the victims and their families and to all the Spanish people.

“Pope Francis has learned with great concern what is happening in Barcelona. He is praying for the victims of this attack and expresses his closeness to all the Spanish people, and, in particular, to the injured and to the families of the victims,” the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, said in a statement.

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Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the victims and their families and to all the Spanish people.

A statement carried by the Islamic State’s media arm said Thursday’s attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State.”

It says the attack was in response to I.S. calls for its followers to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive the extremist group from Syria and Iraq.

This afternoon’s attack was the worst to hit Spain since 2004, when an al-Qaeda bombing killed 192 people in a series of coordinated attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, the Spanish capital. Barcelona is the second most populous city in Spain, with 1.6 million people, and is the capital city of Catalonia, an autonomous community in north-eastern Spain.

Today, according to Associated Press, “a white van jumped up onto a sidewalk and sped down a pedestrian zone Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, swerving from side to side as it plowed into tourists and residents.”

The A.P. said the attack “left victims sprawled out in the street, spattered with blood or crippled by broken limbs. Others fled in panic, screaming or carrying young children in their arms. As witnesses and emergency workers tried to help the wounded, police brandishing hand guns launched a search of side streets looking for suspects.”

This afternoon’s attack was the worst to hit Spain since 2004.

The police immediately cordoned off the area and ordered nearby stores and train and metro stations to be closed. Hours later, Catalan police tweeted: “We have arrested one man and we are treating him as a terrorist.” State-owned broadcaster RTVE reported that investigators think two vans were used—one for the attack and a second as a getaway vehicle.

Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, was quoted by the A.P. as saying that he was watching TV in his building just off Las Ramblas when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony. “I saw women and children just running and they looked terrified,” he said. Mr. Fleming said regular police with guns drawn and riot police were at the end of his block. “It’s just kind of a tense situation.”

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”

 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered assistance to authorities in Spain and said U.S. diplomats in Spain were helping Americans there. He vowed the United States would never relent in tracking down terror suspects and holding them to account.

“Terrorists around the world should know that the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice,” Mr. Tillerson said in a statement.

Spain has been on a security alert one step below the maximum since June 2015 following attacks in Nice, Berlin, London, Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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