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Spanish Ministry of Interior: Terror cell behind Barcelona attacks ‘dismantled’


(Spain's government will reinforce security in crowded areas [Manu Fernandez/AP])

The terror cell behind Spain’s deadly twin attacks has been “dismantled,” Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said Saturday, as police still hunted for one remaining suspect.

“The cell has been completely dismantled,” he told reporters of the cell that is believed to have consisted of at least 12 young men, many of them Moroccan, some teenagers.

Police said the three were Moussa Oukabir, 17, Saied Aallaa, 18, and Mohammed Hychami, 24, all residents of the Ripol district. Police is still searching for a fourth suspect, Younis Aboyaaqoub. Suspects in Spain's twin terror attacks had been planning an even bigger assault than the deadly car rampages they carried out, police said, as distressing details emerged of families torn apart in the horror.

A 35-year-old Italian was among 14 killed, mowed down in front of his wife and young children in Barcelona when a driver rammed his van through crowds on the busy Las Ramblas boulevard on Thursday, before fleeing on foot.

Police said they shot dead five "suspected terrorists" who had knocked pedestrians down in the Catalan seaside resort of Cambrils in a second attack in the early hours of Friday, and arrested four others as Spain reeled from the deadly violence.

Catalonia's regional police identified three of the suspects who were killed as Moroccan nationals.

They were Moussa Oukabir, 17, Said Aallaa, 18, and Mohamed Hychami, 24.

Police said Friday they suspect 12 people of involvement in the attacks: the five who were killed, four who were arrested and three who have been identified but who remain at large.

Officials suspect that two of these three may have died in a blast at a house in the town of Alcanar, about 200 kilometres (140 miles) south of Barcelona on Wednesday evening.

Bigger plans Initially treated as a random gas blast, police later linked the explosion to the Barcelona assault, believing occupants of the house were preparing a larger attack, possibly a vehicle bomb, with the use of gas canisters and slipped up.

Police removed dozens of gas canisters from the house, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

"They were preparing one or several attacks in Barcelona, and an explosion in Alcanar stopped this as they no longer had the material they needed to commit attacks of an even bigger scope," said Josep Lluis Trapero of Catalonia's police.

After the explosion the suspects quickly went on to commit "more rudimentary" attacks. These involved the vehicles ploughing into pedestrians in Barcelona and Cambrils, he added.

The Cambrils suspects had an axe and knives in the car as well as fake explosive belts stuck to their bodies, said police.

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