Police search for Spain van driver, missing Moroccan imam
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Authorities in Spain searched Saturday for a member of an Islamic extremist cell that staged vehicle attacks in Barcelona and a seaside resort, focusing on links with his Moroccan comrades, a missing imam believed to have radicalized them and a house that blew up days ago.
Catalan police said the manhunt was centered on Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan suspected of driving the van that plowed into a Barcelona promenade packed with pedestrians Thursday, killing 13 people and injuring 120. Another attack early Friday killed one person and wounded five in the resort of Cambrils.
But the investigation was also focusing on a Moroccan imam who is thought to have radicalized the cell and was believed to have died on the eve of the Barcelona attack, police said.
Even with Abouyaaquoub still at large, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido declared the cell “broken” after five members were killed by police early Friday in a shootout, four were in custody and one or two were killed in a house explosion Wednesday. He said there was no new imminent threat of attack.
The manhunt spanned Spain and southern France, with Spanish police searching nine homes in the northeastern town of Ripoll, where most of the suspects lived, and two buses in northwest Catalonia.
Across the Pyrenees, French police carried out extra border checks on people coming from Spain.
Police also conducted a series of controlled explosions Saturday in the town of Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where the attacks were planned in a rental house that was destroyed Wednesday by an apparently accidental blast. Authorities had initially thought it was a household gas accident, but took another look Friday and returned on Saturday.
Initially, only one person was believed killed in the Wednesday blast. But officials said DNA tests were underway to determine if human remains found there Friday were from a second victim.