A speeding car and fake bombs bring repeat carnage to Spanish resort

Bystanders recall hearing loud pop of gunshots as five suspected attackers gunned down on Cambrils promenade, just hours after deadly Barcelona attack

A worker starts to tow away a car involved in a terrorist attack in Cambrils, about 75 miles south of Barcelona, on August 18, 2017. (AFP/Lluis Gene)
A worker starts to tow away a car involved in a terrorist attack in Cambrils, about 75 miles south of Barcelona, on August 18, 2017. (AFP/Lluis Gene)

CAMBRILS, Spain — Catalan authorities confirmed Friday that the five suspects killed in a police shootout in the seaside resort of Cambrils had ploughed down pedestrians and police in a car attack and were wearing fake bomb belts, as the resort city recalled a night of terror.

The attack early Friday in Cambrils came hours after a white van mowed down tourists and locals in the popular Las Ramblas promenade in Barcelona, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 100.

Catalonia’s interior minister, Joaquim Forn, told the Onda Cero radio that the suspects in Cambrils were driving in an Audi 3 and began plowing down people when they reached a populated area near the boardwalk. A police car was damaged and an officer was among at least six people injured.

One of the civilians injured is in critical condition, emergency services said on Twitter.

Forn said the suspects killed in a subsequent shootout with police were wearing fake bomb belts. He said the belts were very well made, and that authorities only determined they were phony after a controlled explosion.

The town, like others in the region, was on high alert as the police were hunting the driver of the van in the Barcelona attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Cambrils Mayor Cami Mendoza said the town had taken precautions after the Barcelona attack, but that the suspects had centered their assault early Friday on the narrow path to Cambrils’s boardwalk, which is usually packed with locals and tourists late into the evening.

People fishing off a jetty in Cambrils, Spain, August 2013. (CC BY, Kroszk@, Flickr)
People fishing off a jetty in Cambrils, Spain, August 2013. (CC [email protected], Flickr)

“We were on a terrace, like many others,” said bystander Jose Antonio Saez. “We heard the crash and intense gun shots, then the dead bodies on the floor, shot by the police. They had what looked like explosive belts on.”

Others described scenes of panic and found safety inside bars and restaurants until police had secured the area

Markel Artabe had just finished his shift as a waiter in Cambrils and was heading off for an ice-cream when he heard shots: only a few hours after the carnage in Barcelona, the Catalan coast was suffering another attack.

“Between midnight and 12:30 a.m. we were on the promenade by the beach,” said the 20-year-old, wearing shorts and a sky-blue polo shirt, still shaken after the drama.

“Then we heard shots and thought ‘it must be fireworks’… But it was gunshots,” said the waiter in the seaside resort about 75 miles south of Barcelona in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

According to a spokesman for the regional government “suspected terrorists driving an Audi A3 apparently knocked over several people before encountering” a police patrol, and then “the shooting began.”

A policeman stands by a car involved in a terrorist attack in Cambrils, a city 120 kilometers south of Barcelona, on August 18, 2017. (AFP/LLUIS GENE)
A policeman stands by a car involved in a terrorist attack in Cambrils, Spain, on August 18, 2017. (AFP/Lluis Gene)

The five occupants of the car were killed, the Catalan police said.

Police had earlier said officers had killed “four suspected terrorists.” The fifth died from his wounds.

“It was bang, bang, bang. Shouting, more shouting. I threw myself onto the ground on the beach,” said another waiter, 21-year-old Joan Marc Serra Salinas, in a restaurant where witnesses to the attack had gathered.

“From what people are saying here, those who carried out (the attack) were people of my age…”

Markel told AFP he saw someone who appeared to be a foreigner lying on the ground “with a gunshot to the head. His friends were crying out ‘help’,” he said, although the authorities have not reported any such death.

“I also saw dead bodies that seemed to be terrorists because they were wearing explosive belts.”

Hand in hand, two Spaniards, Rey Perry, 43, and Rocio Ordonez, 26, could not understand how Cambrils could experience such violence, as it’s “a quiet tourist place for families, where many walk around with children.”

With police helicopters overhead, Cambrils mayor Cami Mendoza noted the “speed and efficiency” of the Catalan police response, at an impromptu press briefing in the street at about 5 a.m. local time

“We were appalled. It was a long and difficult night,” Mendoza said, but gave no details of the attack to journalists, who were behind a security cordon and prevented from approaching the seafront.

“The situation is under control,” the mayor said. In a few hours Cambrils will be back to normal.”

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