Barcelona attack: Suspected terrorist shot dead while wearing fake suicide belt

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Spanish Civil Guards escort one of four men accused of involvement in an Islamist cell behind a van attack in Barcelona last week, in Tres Cantos, Spain, August 21, 2017. Reuters/Juan Medina

The suspected terrorist behind the Barcelona attack was shot dead by armed police on Monday. Younes Abouyaaqoub was wearing a fake suicide belt when he was gunned down in the district of Subirats, a town of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, bringing a five-day manhunt to an end.

Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan, reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” as he was challenged by officers. Police has initially declared they had shot a man wearing an explosive belt. The man was later identified as the suspected driver of the van that plowed into crowds in Barcelona last week.

A remote-controlled robot was used by authorities to check Abouyaaqoub’s body for explosives. They later found that the suicide belt he was wearing was fake, according to the Telegraph

But Abouyaaqoub had knives in possession when he was shot, according to José Lluís Trapero, head of Catalan police. Trapero said a woman alerted the police after seeing photos of Abouyaaqoub, and he was reportedly acting suspiciously. Witness accounts suggest that Abouyaaqoub was alone when he had an encounter with the police. He was shot in a rural area which was surrounded by pine trees.

A police helicopter circled overhead following the gunfire. Police officers and squad cars were nearby.

Investigators said Abouyaaqoub fled the scene of Thursday's attack by hijacking a car. The car rammed through a checkpoint and authorities managed to fire, but Abouyaaqoub was able to flee.

On Monday, CCTV images appeared to show Abouyaaqoub making his escape through Barcelona’s La Boqueria market following the attack emerged. He rammed the Ford Focus through a checkpoint, then abandoned the car and fled on foot. He allegedly stabbed the car’s owner, Pau Perez, and drove off with his body inside the car. Perez's body was recovered in the vehicle, making him the 15th victim of the attacks in Barcelona and the Catalan town of Cambrils.

Hours later, a second attack in the coastal resort of Cambrils was launched, leaving a woman dead and a police officer injured. All five terrorists behind the attack were shot dead at the scene.

Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn said that all proof led to Abouyaaqoub as the sole driver in the Barcelona attack. Speaking to local radio, he said security services were working with other agencies across Europe to find him, as there had been fears Abouyaaqoub had fled across the border into France to launch another attack.

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