Spanish police said Monday that they shot and killed a terrorism suspect linked to two deadly attacks last week, including a van that plowed into victims in Barcelona, that killed 15 and injured more than 120.
Police confirmed that the man gunned down at a gas station in Subirats, 20 miles northwest of Barcelona, was Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan national who is believed to have driven the van that rammed into crowds on the city's packed Las Ramblas pedestrian street Thursday.
Authorities said officers raced to Subirats when a member of the public reported recognizing the suspect, who was at the center of a Europe-wide manhunt. Spanish media reported that he was wearing what appeared to be an explosive suicide belt and shouted "God is great" before police gunned him down.
A police robot was used to approach the body and determine whether the explosive belt was live.
Abouyaaqoub is thought to have fled Las Ramblas on foot after abandoning the van used in the attack. Investigators believe that he hijacked a car and killed the driver before ramming a police checkpoint and vanishing. He had been at large since.
Spanish police set up 800 checkpoints and the manhunt extended across Europe after regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero told journalists at a news conference on Sunday that Abouyaaqoub might have crossed the border into France.
On Monday, Spain’s Interior Ministry had published closed-circuit television images of a slim figure wearing a striped T-shirt and sunglasses that it claimed was Abouyaaqoub walking away from the Las Ramblas attack.
Investigators say the Barcelona attack and a second similar attack shortly afterward in the Catalonian coastal town of Cambrils, which killed a Spanish woman and injured six others including a police officer, were the work of a 12-man terrorist cell that was planning a massive bomb attack.
Five suspected terrorists wearing fake suicide belts were shot dead by police in Cambrils and have been identified. Two others are thought by police to have been killed after an explosion in a house in Alcanar that detectives believe was being used as a bomb-making factory. Several other suspects were arrested and are being questioned.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Spanish attacks.
Of the 53 people injured in the two car rammings who are still in the hospital, 13 are listed in a critical condition.
French newspapers reported that the privately owned Spanish-registered Audi used in the Cambrils attack was caught on camera speeding near Paris a week before the attacks.
There has been a wave of terrorist attacks using vehicles in Europe in the last 13 months.
On July 14, 2016, French Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a speeding truck into the crowded promenade in the French Riviera town of Nice after a fireworks display for the country’s Bastille Day celebrations. The attack killed 84 people, including 10 children, and injured more than 200.
In Berlin in December, Tunisian Anis Amri killed 12 people and injured 48 when he drove a truck into a Christmas market. Again, Islamic State claimed responsibility.
In March this year, Khalid Masood, a British national who had converted to Islam, rammed into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing five people, including a police officer who was stabbed as he guarded the nearby Houses of Parliament. Islamic State claimed responsibility, but British police said they could find no direct link between Masood and the militant organization.
There have been further attacks using vehicles in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, in April, in London in June and in France at the beginning of this month, when an Algerian drove into a group of soldiers stationed at Levallois-Perret on the outskirts of Paris. The suspect, Hamou Bachir Benlatreche, 36, was later stopped by police on the motorway and arrested.
Willsher is a special correspondent.
9:10 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.
8:25 a.m.: This article has been updated with police saying they have shot a man in a town outside Barcelona.
6:32 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional background
5:35 a.m.: This article was updated with a revised death toll in the attacks.
This article was originally published at 12:20 a.m.