Spanish police yesterday extended the search to all of Europe for the man who killed 15 people in Barcelona by ramming a van into crowds as details emerged of how he fled on foot through the streets before disappearing.
Authorities are looking for Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan-born man, who they believe was behind the wheel of a van that left a trail of dead and injured on Barcelona’s famed boulevard.
The Catalan regional government said that all European police forces are now searching for Abouyaaqoub and authorities could not rule out that he had slipped across the border into France.
“This person is no longer just being sought in Catalonia, but in all European countries. This is an effort by European police,” regional head of home affairs Joaquim Forn told Catalan radio.
Forn confirmed that police were nearly certain Abouyaaqoub was the driver.
Authorities have stepped up checks at Spain’s borders and raided more homes overnight in Ripoll, a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees and close to France where many of the suspects in a 12-strong cell thought to be behind the attack had lived.
Others thought to be part of the suspected Islamic militant network have been arrested, shot by police or killed in an explosion at a house in Catalonia a day before Thursday’s van attack.
The attack in Barcelona was linked to another hours later in the resort down of Cambrils, further down the Mediterranean coastline from Barcelona.
A car crashed into passers-by there and attackers got out to try and stab people. Five suspects were shot dead, while a Spanish woman died in the attack.
Abouyaaqoub abandoned the van after zig-zagging down Las Ramblas avenue at high speed, police said, adding that witnesses had seen him walking away unarmed from the scene.
Spanish papers El Pais and La Vanguardia said they had seen images of the man leaving Las Ramblas, then crossing through La Boqueria food market before disappearing.
El Pais yesterday published CCTV footage of a man wearing a black-and-white shirt similar to the one Abouyaaqoub wore when he was caught on a bank security camera the night before the attacks.
Authorities yesterday raised the death toll to 15, confirming that Pau Perez, a 34-year-old man found stabbed dead in a Ford Focus outside Barcelona on Friday, was killed by Abouyaaqoub.
Catalan Minister of Justice Carles Mundo in a news conference yesterday said that the identities of all 15 killed in the attack have been confirmed.
“They have all been identified and their families have been notified,” Mundo said.
The 15 comprise six Spanish, three Italians, two Portuguese, a Belgian, a Canadian, an American and a British-Australian, he said, adding that two were children.
Spanish political leaders from all the main parties were also due to meet later yesterday to review security measures as part of cross-party efforts to unite on anti-terrorist efforts.