The authorities also said on Monday that an imam believed to have inspired the twin attacks had almost certainly died on Wednesday when a house that the terrorists used as a bomb factory blew up — an event that appears to have precipitated the attacks.
The imam, Abdelbaki Essati, preached in the town of Ripoll, home to many of the members of the terrorist cell, which the authorities say included at least 12 people, of whom Mr. Abouyaaqoub is the only one thought to be on the run.
Investigators believe that the planning for the plot may have begun not long after Mr. Essati’s arrival, a year ago, at the second of two mosques where he worked in Ripoll.
The remains of two people were found at the house where the explosion took place, in the town of Alcanar, south of Barcelona.
Maj. Josep Lluís Trapero, the police chief in the Catalonia region, of which Barcelona is the capital, said at a news conference on Monday that the police had “solid indications” that Mr. Essati was one of them, although they were awaiting the results of DNA tests. The other is yet to be positively identified.
The police also said on Monday that they were certain that Mr. Abouyaaqoub was the driver of the van.
They released surveillance camera images of Mr. Abouyaaqoub, wearing a striped polo shirt, and gave details about how he managed to escape from downtown Barcelona. “We believe he was the only one in the van and driving it,” Major Trapero said.
Mr. Abouyaaqoub fled on foot from Las Ramblas, the police said, and crossed another popular tourist destination, La Boqueria, a busy food market. He then spotted a stationary car in the city’s university district, killed the owner and put the body on the back seat. Then he forced his way through a police check point.
The driver, Mr. Pérez, was found stabbed to death in his vehicle on the outskirts of Barcelona. Major Trapero said that the police couldn’t yet establish Mr. Abouyaaqoub’s whereabouts beyond that point.
Two of the 15 people killed were children, including a seven-year-old who had both Australian and British citizenship. Six victims were Spanish, including one who also held an Argentine passport, three were Italians, two Portuguese, one Belgian, one American and one Canadian, the authorities said.
Fifty victims of the attacks remained in hospitals on Monday, 12 of them in critical condition, down from the 126 who were taken to hospital immediately after the attacks last week.
The police chief said that the investigation had gained an international dimension, implying that other countries’ police and intelligence agencies were now involved, but did not provide details.
He also would not comment on reports that the imam had longstanding ties to extremists and had spent time overseas, including in Belgium early last year, shortly before terrorists attacked the airport and subway in Brussels. The imam spent time in prison in Spain on drug-related charges, but had no record for terrorism-related activities.
Major Trapero defended the level of police surveillance ahead of the attacks, the most serious since 2004, when terrorists bombed commuter trains in Madrid, killing 192 people.
The country has avoided major acts of jihadist terrorism since then, even as the Islamic State and other extremists struck other cities across Europe.
Major Trapero said that it would be “playing dirty” to accuse the police of lapses, and said the police never received information that would have justified acting against members of the cell.
Asked why nobody had raised the alarm in Alcanar, as terrorists stored over 100 gas cylinders in their bomb-making house, Major Trapero said: “We have to be cautious not to criminalize the ones who didn’t see or act.”
Even with Mr. Abouyaaqoub on the run, Spain kept its level of terrorism alert on Monday at four, on a scale from one to five.
At a news conference in Madrid, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido praised the “fluid” cooperation between the authorities in Barcelona and Madrid since the attacks. Mr. Zoido urged citizens to join a march next Saturday in Barcelona to condemn terrorism. “We all make ours the suffering of Barcelona,” he said.
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