BY Amanda Connelly | August 18 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

Pope Francis leads consistory for Mideast and canonizations

Pope prays for victims of Barcelona terrorist attacks

Pope Francis has expressed his ‘closeness’ to the victims and their families of two terror attacks in Spain, leaving 13 dead and hundreds more injured.

“With great concern the Holy Father has learned about what is happening in Barcelona,” read a statement from Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office. “The Pope prays for the victims of this attack and wants to express his closeness to the whole Spanish people, particularly the injured and the families of the victims.”

The first of the two attacks took place at 4.50pm local time (2.50pm UK time), when a white van ploughed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas, a popular street in central Barcelona filled with tourists.

Eyewitness accounts reported the van zigzagging to knock down as many people as possible, killed 13 people and injuring over 100 more, before the driver was able to flee the scene.

IS have claimed responsibility for the incident in Las Ramblas, while Spanish police have described it as a terrorist attack.

Hours later, an Audi A3 drove into people in Cambrils, a popular seaside town located 68 miles south-west of Barcelona, where six people were injured, one critically, as well as a police officer.

Five attackers were shot by police, four of which died at the scene at one later of his injuries.

Some appeared to be wearing suicide belts and controlled explosions were carried out, however authorities later reported that the belts were fake.

The attacks in both Las Ramblas and Cambrils are believed to be linked.

One person from Melilla was arrested in Alcanar and a Moroccan was arrested in Ripoll on Thursday, but police reported that neither of the individuals are the driver of the van.

The Moroccan, 28-year-old Driss Oubakir, arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on August 13, and documents belonging to him were allegedly used to rent the Las Ramblas van, however local media report that his papers were stolen and used without his knowledge.

Police announced another arrest in Ripoll on Friday 7.30pm local time.

Thursday also saw a car driven into officers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona, with a dead man later found inside the car.

The incident is not believed to be connected to Thursday’s events, however an incident on Wednesday night, which saw an explosion destroy a house in Alcanar, south of Barcelona kill one person and wound seven, is thought to be linked to the attacks on Thursday.

Leaders of the Church in Spain have called for prayers in light of the attacks.

“We follow with concern and prayers the situation of victims of the mass trampling in Las Ramblas,” Bishop José Gil Tamayo, secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, said. “Our solidarity with the victims and Barcelona.”

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