Was Las Ramblas Terrorism? The Barcelona Van Attack Injured Several People

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Plaça de CatalunyaAt least two people were killed with several more injured Thursday in what local authorities have called a suspected terror attack in Barcelona's Las Ramblas district, British newspaper The Telegraph has reported. A van appeared to plow into pedestrians near one of the Spanish city's most popular areas for tourists in an incident law enforcement  sources described as "a massive trampling" in a brief statement posted to Twitter.

Shortly after the incident occurred, local police said they were investigating the incident as a suspected terrorist attack, but had not yet said what the motive was. "We confirm the terrorist attack," police said in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday. "The protocol for these cases has been activated."

Police confirmed the death of at least one person and reported at least 32 others had been injured, with 10 of them seriously hurt. In a news conference held Thursday, Joaquim Forn, an interior department official in Catalonia, said authorities expected the number of fatalities to rise, the Associated Press reported. Police have also called for nearby metro stations to be shut down and urged residents and visitors to the city to avoid Plaça de Catalunya, the square that sits at the top of Las Ramblas.

In interviews with the Telegraph, eyewitnesses described the scene in Barcelona as one of panic and chaos as police sought to secure the area. And Barcelona resident Keith Fleming told the Associated Press he'd seen "women and children just running," adding that "they looked terrified." Fleming described the situation on as "tense," noting police had cleared the street. "Clearly, people were scared," he said.

Although details of the incident in Barcelona are still developing, vehicles have been used as deadly weapons of terror in attacks in cities across Europe since July 2016. In the most deadly attack, 84 people were killed on July 15, 2016 when a man drove a refrigerated truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. More recently, seven people were killed and at least 48 others were injured when a group of suspects drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before attacking bystanders at nearby Borough Market with knives on June 3.

According to Reuters, anti-tourist graffiti had recently begun appearing in Barcelona, a popular European travel destination that reportedly draws at least 11 million visitors a year. Earlier this month, the youth arm of the Catalan political party Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) claimed responsibility for an "anti-tourism campaign" that reportedly included vandalizing tourist bicycles and slashing the tires of a tour bus. However, it remains unclear if the CUP has any connection to Thursday's deadly attack in Barcelona's Las Ramblas.