US warns Spain of Christmas bus ramming plot in Barcelona

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Police in Barcelona, Spain yesterday were searching, according to reports, for a Moroccan man suspected of plotting an attack using a bus as a weapon during Christmas holidays. The United States State Department alerted the nation to the suspected plans.

Emergency vehicles at the scene of the previous attack in Las Ramblas.
Image: jikatu.
Las Ramblas, pictured from file.
Image: Ralf Roletschek.

Las Ramblas, the scene of an Islamic State van ramming attack in the city in 2017, became the site of heavy police activity. The US State Department urged its citizens to be vigilant when in the area. Police were also patrolling a Christmas market at the nearby Plaza Cataluna, a major square.

Catalonia's police force is the Mossos d'Esquadra. Based on the intelligence received, Spanish newspaper El País reported, they were hunting for a 30-year-old bus driver from Casablanca, with only a minor criminal record in Spain. Police were performing spot checks on bus drivers in an effort to trace him.

The 2015 attack, which killed over a dozen, was also conducted by a Moroccan; within hours, five linked assailants had conducted a similar second attack elsewhere in the city. This Friday saw the arrest of a 35-year-old Moroccan male suspected of working for the Islamic State in Syria. The Spanish Interior Ministry has left its terror alert level at four on a five-point scale. Catalan Interior Minister Miquel Buch said the situation was being taken seriously; the national Interior Ministry, meanwhile, indicated enhanced security was already in force for the final days of the year on a precautionary basis.

Reports indicated the suspect was not known to be currently in Spain.