People move from the scene after a van crashed into pedestrians near the pedestrianized central thoroughfare Las Ramblas in Barcelona
Officials embark on terrorism investigation
MADRID (MarketWatch) — A popular promenade in Barcelona, Spain, became a scene of panic and devastation on Thursday after a van rammed pedestrians, leaving a dozen people dead and dozens more injured.
The incident took place on Las Ramblas, a long, tree-lined street that is typically packed with tourists and locals, around 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Eastern time).
Local media were at one point reporting that hostages were being held at a bar near the scene of the attack by other assailants, but later reports cast doubt on the matter. The Associated Press cited the regional president in reporting that two suspects had been arrested.
The Wall Street Journal, citing the jidahist-activity-monitoring organization SITE Intelligence Group, reported that Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted that terrorists would never defeat a united people who love freedom.
The seaside city was on lockdown in the immediate wake of the attack, with residents told to not leave their homes and many reported to be sheltering inside stores and restaurants and bars that closed the moment news of the attack reached them.
Media reports in Spain and the U.S. indicated the police were treating the incident as a terrorist attack. The police presence on streets in the Spanish capital Madrid, some 600 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, was sharply escalated in the wake of the Barcelona attack.
Nathalie Lezcano Sticchi, a 28-year-old resident of Barcelona who lives near the area, told MarketWatch she had passed the scene of the attack just five minutes before, stepping off the Ramblas to go into a Zara clothing store on a side street.
“When I was on the first floor, one of the guys who was working [at Zara] said, ‘You have to go outside, we are going to close because something is happening at the Ramblas,’ ” Sticchi said in a telephone interview. She said a friend had forwarded her a message from his mother, who had been at Las Ramblas and seen a truck crashing into people.
Sticchi ran to her house, as stores drew their shutters all around her. “People were running everywhere, and no one understood what was going on,” she said, “and I started hearing ambulances.”
Several metro lines were closed in Barcelona, and the area remained sealed off into the evening. Police were urging individuals not to share images of the crash site on social media. They also thanked the media for pixellating images they had chose to use of victims: