UPDATE: ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
An individual used his vehicle as a weapon in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, plowing into crowds of pedestrians in the city’s popular Las Ramblas district.
Several are injured and the death toll continues to mount in the aftermath of the incident, which police are now describing as a “terrorist attack.”
At least 13 dead in van crash in Barcelona city centre - @La_SER radio, citing police sources
— Dan Williams (@DanWilliams) August 17, 2017
The van targeted individuals outside of a “Maccabi” kosher restaurant, initial reports indicate, but it’s unclear whether the attacks targeted the place of business.
The person in the van fled on foot, and following the vehicle ramming, two men that are believed to be involved in the incident are holed up in a Turkish restaurant, police sources say, claiming that they have taken hostages.
Mossos, the police force of Catalonia, confirmed that the incident is being considered a terrorist attack.
Es confirma atemptat terrorista. S'ha activat el protocol d'atemptat terrorista
— Mossos (@mossos) August 17, 2017
Police have reportedly identified the suspect who last rented the van — a Spanish citizen with an “Arabic surname.”
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) August 17, 2017
El Pais: The van used in the BCN attack had been rented by a man named Driss Oukabir pic.twitter.com/QN24lvqZ81
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) August 17, 2017
The U.S. Embassy in Madrid issued a warning.
We are aware of a reported incident at Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Please avoid the area and monitor local police @mossos for updates.
— US Embassy Madrid (@USembassyMadrid) August 17, 2017
The incident in Barcelona is just the latest in an attack method that has become all too common among jihadists in Europe. It is a tactic popularized by Palestinians and has since spread worldwide. “Vehicular jihad,” as some refer to it, has been carried out dozens of times over the past few years against innocent Israeli Jews, and it’s now used to target major European cities. In 2014, ISIS called upon its supporters to commit to vehicle attacks.
Vehicular jihad was used in a July 2016 attack in Nice, France, in which some 86 people were killed and another 434 injured when an ISIS devotee used a 19-ton cargo truck to ram through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. Later that year, an ISIS terrorist drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring another 56. And in March this year, an Islamic terrorist committed vehicular jihad against pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge.
In September of 2014, a prominent ISIS leader urged supporters:
"If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him."
Al-Qaida’s “Inspire” magazine has echoed calls for vehicular terror.
"The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah," a segment from an issue of Inspire reads.
Sky News has a live feed of developments unfolding in Barcelona: