Spanish police treating Barcelona would-be stabbing as terror attack
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Spanish police treating Barcelona would-be stabbing as terror attack

Algerian man shouts ‘Allahu akbar’ before lunging at police with knife; is shot dead by officers

The body of a man who tried to attack a police station is carried out of the premises in Cornella near the northeastern Spanish city of Barcelona on August 20, 2018. (LLUIS GENE/AFP)
The body of a man who tried to attack a police station is carried out of the premises in Cornella near the northeastern Spanish city of Barcelona on August 20, 2018. (LLUIS GENE/AFP)

Spanish officers on Monday shot dead an Algerian man who tried to attack them with a knife at a police station while shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest), police said.

Barcelona police said they are treating the attack as a terrorist incident.

“We are treating it as a terrorist attack. The officer used his gun to save his own life,” Rafel Comes, a commissioner with the Catalan regional police, told a news conference in Cornella de Llobregat where the attack took place.

But he said police have found no evidence linking the incident to last year’s terror attacks in Barcelona and nearby Cambrils, which killed 16 people.

“An investigation has been launched following the events that occurred this morning at our police station in Cornella in order to clarify the reasons for the attack,” Catalonia regional police said in a statement.

The central government’s representative in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, called for “prudence” before deciding what the attacker’s motive was and until police had finished their investigation.

“Until there have been a minimum of checks, of looking into the whys, it is very difficult to draw any conclusions,” she told public radio.

Catalan regional police (Mossos d’Esquadra) forces stand guard outside the apartment building of a man who tried to attack a police station in Cornella near the northeastern Spanish city of Barcelona on August 20, 2018. (LLUIS GENE/AFP)

Catalan police were due to give more details about the attack at a Barcelona press conference scheduled for noon (1000 GMT).

The police station was cordoned off and funeral home employees removed the attacker’s body from the building, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Officers searched the man’s home, which was located just a few hundred meters (yards) from the site of the attack.

The incident occurred just days after the first anniversary of a deadly jihadist rampage in Catalonia.

Sixteen people were killed on August 17, 2017, when a van drove into crowds on Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas boulevard and in a knife attack in the nearby resort of Cambrils.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the terror attacks, Spain’s worst since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 when 191 people died and more than 1,800 were injured.

IS targets police

Spain has kept its terrorist alert at the second-highest level since 2015.

Catalonia, which is home to a significant number of second-generation immigrants, has had a long history of Islamic terrorist activity.

Spain’s first Muslim extremist — a member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) — was uncovered in Catalonia in 1995.

Mohammed Atta, the pilot who slammed a passenger plane into one of New York’s World Trade Center towers on Sept 11, 2001, spent time in Catalonia shortly before the attacks.

And in 2008, a plot targeting Barcelona’s underground trains was foiled when it was already in advanced stages.

A police officer gestures as he blocks a street following a terror attack in which a white van jumped the sidewalk in the city’s historic Las Ramblas district, in Barcelona, Spain, Augist 17, 2017. Manu Fernandez/AP)

One in four people detained in Spain in relation to extremist Muslim-linked terrorism come from the province of Barcelona in Catalonia, according to a study published last year by the Real Instituto Elcano, a Spanish think-tank, which called the province the country’s “main center of jihadist activity.

There have been a string of similar incidents in neighboring France targeting police and soldiers, including one in January 2016 in which police shot dead a man wielding a cleaver and yelling “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he tried to attack a police station in northern Paris.

That incident came on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

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