That mishap occurred just before midnight in the town of Alcanar, 120 miles southwest of Barcelona, and was first reported as a gas explosion. But as attacks unfolded in Barcelona Thursday afternoon and the resort town of Cambrils after midnight, the police soon made the connection to Alcanar.
The attack in Cambrils, about 70 miles southwest of Barcelona, was halted by the police only after the driver of a compact Audi A3 rammed his vehicle into a group of pedestrians, the Catalan authorities said, according to news accounts. Seven people were injured.
The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported that the Audi had run through a security check at the entrance to the town, prompting a police chase. After driving into pedestrians, the five occupants emerged, wielding knives. But the police quickly descended, killing all five before they could commit any further mayhem.
The five assailants appeared to be wearing explosive vests, although the Catalan police said on Friday that the explosives were fake. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, claimed responsibility for the attack in Barcelona, but there has been no such claim as yet for the events in Cambrils.
At least 80 people were injured in the attack in Barcelona. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said in a statement that 26 French were among the wounded, with 11 in serious condition. He also said that he would travel to Barcelona on Friday to “visit the French victims of this cowardly act and show France’s support to the Spanish people and authorities.”
A Spaniard and a Moroccan were taken into custody in connection with the Barcelona attack Thursday night. The Moroccan man, identified as Driss Oukabar, was arrested in Ripoll after he walked into a police station and said that his documents had been stolen. A national police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation, said at least three vans had been rented under Mr. Oukabar’s name.
The connection to Morocco will no doubt be a focus for the authorities: Several of the assailants involved in major terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels were of Moroccan descent or had relatives there.
The Spaniard was detained in Alcanar, southwest of Cambrils, and the police were investigating whether he was connected to the explosion Wednesday night, which killed one person and injured several others.
The police said they were still looking for the driver of the van after the assaults, the latest in Europe, claimed by Islamic extremists, in which assailants used vehicles to kill people in countries fighting the Islamic State.
The police are working on the hypothesis that the five assailants killed in Cambrils could be connected to the events in Barcelona, Agence France-Presse reported, and The Associated Press reported that the Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn, said the events were linked.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany expressed her condolences to the Spanish government and “close solidarity” with the people of Spain “in these difficult hours,” her spokesman said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain declared three days of mourning, and a moment of silence was held across the country at noon on Friday.
Las Ramblas was still closed to traffic early Friday, and trains and buses were not stopping in the area. The police said that access to the area around Las Ramblas and Plaza de Cataluña would be restricted to pedestrians and that security checks would be conducted, and they warned people not to wear large backpacks or carry large bags.
The Catalan authorities have asked the public to come forward with any information about the attack.
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