IT TOOK members of the Spanish police and security services – especially the Mossos d’Esquadra (the Cataluña police force) – just over 100 hours to catch and bring to justice the perpetrators of the outrage on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
Across the world, images of the aftermath of the terrorist attack which killed innocent people and injured many more – some seriously and with life-changing conditions – reduced many to tears and with a sense of outrage. Men, women and children from 34 different countries were affected which proves the international attraction of one of the world’s most iconic tourist destinations.
But Spain, and the Spanish and the visitors were back walking up and down the same boulevard within hours showing a sense of defiance to the terrorists and support to the victims and their families.
Two of the four suspects arrested following the attacks have been charged by a judge in Madrid with terrorism offences. One of the remaining suspects was released but required to report to police on a weekly basis while investigations continued, and the other was detained for further questioning.
During the hearings that were held behind closed doors it is understood from sources in the Spanish news media that one of those charged had confirmed that a much larger and daring attack had been planned. This potentially included a massive truck bomb attack on Barcelona’s most iconic landmark of the unfinished Sagrada Família cathedral.
The terrorists were charged just 24 hours after police killed Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, the last unaccounted-for member of the terrorism cell, in the countryside west of Barcelona. He was believed to be the driver of the van that killed the initial13 people but it was sometime later that it was discovered that he also stabbed a man during his getaway.
The final victim
The man stabbed to death was Pau Pérez, from Vilafranca del Penedes and some 40 miles from Barcelona. He was found dead in the back of his Ford Focus used as as Abouyaaqoub’s getaway vehicle at the scene of the latter’s death at the hands of police. In an ironic twist of fate, Pérez had called his family when he knew of the original attack to assure them he was OK. Minutes later as he went to get into his car, he was himself attacked and killed.
Described by many as being a hero, a British man from Birmingham helped to comfort one of the dying victims as he lay on the ground of Las Ramblas.
Harry Athwal was speaking on the ITV programme Good Morning Britain and told viewers: “As soon as I saw that child I knew what I had to do, I had to go to that child, I was not going to leave that child.” He defied police demands to leave the area in case of subsequent attacks but he refused. “No, I’m not moving I’m not leaving this child’ and I wasn’t going to leave him for anybody. I just sat there stroking his hair. I was crying, I was in tears, I was scared.”
It is not official, but it’s widely believed that the child he comforted in their final moments was 7-year-old Julian Cadman, the British-Australian boy confirmed as being among the dead.
The local reaction
Municipalities throughout the Costa Blanca joined others across the country and the world in holding up to three minutes of silence for the victims. Many town halls have also increased their security by placing a series of concrete blocks at either end of pedestrianised areas to prevent any repeat of the Barcelona tragedy in their locality.
Torrevieja have already installed 30 such barriers along some of their most popular walkways located on Paseo de Juan Aparicio and the Vista Alegre.