After a white van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians along La Rambla in Barcelona, chaos, confusion, and false reports are being pushed out into the internet ether. Among claims of numerous dead and gun fire at Spanish department store El Corte Inglés, many are wondering: what happened in Barcelona?
Reports from the scene confirm that this is being considered a terrorist attack. Catalonian officials tweeted, in Catalan, "A terrorist attack is confirmed. The protocol for terrorist attacks has been activated," and officials have also confirmed that a white van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians on La Rambla, near where it terminates at Plaça de Catalunya. This is one of the most heavily-trafficked tourist spots in all of Barcelona. According to early reports from the BBC, "Witnesses said the van had deliberately targeted people before coming to a stop."
Initially, officials confirmed only one death, but Spanish television outlets were reporting at least 13 dead and more than 50 injured, and that number has officially been confirmed by Catalonian Minister of the Interior Joaquim Forn. Catalonian police officially have a suspect in custody; reports that anyone is holed up in a bar and reports of hostages are both false. Police also confirmed that there was no shoot-out at El Corte Inglés.
The Guardian has reported eyewitness accounts of chaos in the immediate aftermath. A 20-year-old man from the Netherlands was on the first day of vacation when he witnessed the attack:
Our hotel, the Pension Solarium, is about 200 metres from the scene of the crash. We were coming back from the beach and saw a scene of total chaos. People were screaming, there were a lot of wounded people. We saw a white van stopped in the middle of the street - the part where pedestrians walk down. It had driven right down the middle and thrown people onto the cobbled part of the street, down the sides.
Las Ramblas (or La Rambla, depending on who you're talking to) is a famous shopping boulevard that terminates at Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona's busiest square. The area is known for its heavy tourist traffic, and it is one of Spain's most famous destinations.
The attack comes only days after one was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia when a man attending the "Unite the Right" rally rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-protesters.
But that's not the only instance of vehicles being used in terrorist attacks recently: just this week, one was killed in Paris, France when a car rammed into a pizza place, and several soldiers in a suburb of Paris were injured when a car rammed them in similar attacks.
The Telegraph has put together a timeline of vehicles used in terror attacks around Europe, starting with the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France last year, which left 87 dead and hundreds more injured. The tactic is becoming increasingly common due to the availability of cars and vans. The attack on Las Ramblas is reportedly the eighth time a vehicle has been used in a terrorist attack in Europe this year alone.