Barcelona was the scene of what Spain’s Department of Interior is calling a terrorist attack this morning. According to witnesses at the scene, a van rammed into a crowd of people, killing at least one, and injuring a number of others. After the incident, two gunmen reportedly exited the vehicles and barricaded themselves inside one of the restaurants in the Placa Catalunya square at the top of Las Ramblas avenue.
According to police, a total of 13 people are dead, though they did not clarify whether or not those deaths were all the result of the vehicle attack, or if the gunmen had opened fire on the crowd. According to ABC News in Barcelona, the police are now in a standoff with the men, who appear to have taken hostages.
All of sudden it was real chaos.” Witness Ethan Spibey told Britain’s Sky News. “People just started running screaming, there were loud bangs. People just started running into shops, there was a kind of mini-stampede where we were, down one of the alleyways.”
“They’ve locked the doors because I’m not sure whether the person who may have done it has actually been caught, so they’ve locked the doors and told people just to wait in here.”
The Las Ramblas district has been sealed off, and a number of nearby metro and train stations have been closed per the city’s anti-terrorism procedures. Law enforcement has asked that people avoid the area, and that those already nearby shelter in doors until the situation has been resolved.
Barcelona sees as many as 11 million tourists a year, with Las Ramblas avenue serving as among the most commonly visited sites. In recent weeks, a rash of vandalism directed toward tourists has plagued the congested city, part of a larger anti-tourism trend growing throughout Spain. The motivations for this attack, however, remain unclear.
According to witnesses, there are already at least eight ambulances on the scene, and gunfire could be heard from neighboring businesses, though these accounts have not been verified by Barcelona officials.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted: “In contact with all administrations. Priority: tend to the injured in Las Ramblas and facilitate the work of security forces.”
The U.S. Consulate in Barcelona also took to the social media platform, urging all to avoid the area and to monitor the official police account for updates.
This is far from the first terror attack involving a motor vehicle in Europe. Similar attacks in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm have killed more than one hundred people over the past year.
Image courtesy of Twitter