Barcelona attack suspect admits ‘bigger attack’ was planned, Spanish official says
One of the four alleged members of the extremist cell arrested after a pair of deadly Spanish terror attacks last week appeared before a judge in Spain’s National Court on Tuesday — and admitted there was a “bigger attack” on the city’s monuments being planned, officials said.
The four men, believed to be the only members left alive of the extremist cell, were moved from Barcelona to Madrid to attend the closed-door hearing early Tuesday. The prosecutor urged the suspects, identified by Spanish media as Driss Oukabir, Mohammed Aalla, Salh el Karib and Mohamed Houli Chemlal, be held without bail.
Chemlal was the first to testify, and he said there was a bigger attack planned following the Barcelona and Cambrils vehicle assaults that left 15 dead and more than 120 wounded, a Spanish judicial official told The Associated Press. A National Court spokesman said Chemlal’s testimony before Judge Fernando Andreu lasted more than an hour, where he also said the imam planned to blow himself up when they detonated explosives on Barcelona monuments.
Only one of the four suspects acknowledged being part of the cell. Two of the four suspects identified the imam, who was killed in a blast the day before the attacks, as the ring leader of the extremist cell.
Oukabir, the second Barcelona attack suspect to testify, denied any involvement with the extremist cell despite his brother being one of the five radicals shot dead by police in Cambrils. He admitted he rented the vans used in the assaults, but said he thought they would be used for a house move.
The judge is set to decide whether the four suspects will remain in jail or be released.
A spokeswoman for prosecutors said Tuesday the four suspects would be interrogated in the presence of lawyers provided by the court throughout the day. Speaking anonymously in line with court rules, she said the testimony would be in Spanish without interpreters.
Three of the alleged terror cell members were arrested last Thursday and Friday in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll. Chemlal was arrested after he was injured during an accidental house explosion in Alcanar, a home officials believe was a bomb-making workshop.
Authorities believe all 12 members of the extremist cell responsible for coordinating the deadly attacks, including a former imam, were either dead or under arrest. Younes Abouyaaqoub, who Spanish police identified as the driver of the van in the Barcelona assault and the final member of the cell, was shot dead Monday. Police said Abouyaaquob appeared to be wearing an explosive belt.
Five other members of the group were shot dead during the Cambril vehicle attack. Two other members, including the imam, died during the Alcanar house explosion the night before Thursday’s assault.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.