Van Driver Hits Pedestrians in Barcelona, Killing at Least 12 in Terror Attack – New York Times

The driver of a van plowed into a crowd enjoying a peaceful, sunny afternoon on a pedestrianized stretch of Barcelona’s most famous street on Thursday, killing at least 12 people and leaving 80 others lying bloodied on the pavement amid wrecked kiosks, in what Spanish authorities said was a terrorist attack. Two men have been arrested.

Within hours, the Islamic State claimed that the perpetrators were its “soldiers,” adding Spain to the list of European countries — including France and Britain — where vehicles have been used in attacks on civilians.

Until Thursday, Spain had been spared from the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Europe — many involving vehicles plowing into crowds — claimed by extremists in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere.

That changed in an instant, with witnesses describing people screaming and running for their lives as the driver of the van weaved back and forth just before 6 p.m., apparently trying to hit as many people as he could. Police officers swept through the area near Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard with a large pedestrianized section, telling people to get out of the area.

“I heard a crowd screaming,” Tom Markwell, a tourist from New Orleans, told the BBC. “It sounded like they were screaming for a movie star.”

The police were requesting that people not pass through the area near Plaza de Cataluña and Las Ramblas in the heart of the city, popular destinations for tourists.

The Barcelona police said they had put in place their protocols for dealing with serious attacks, the Catalan emergency services said that they had asked the authorities to close metro and train stations in the area.

“There has just been a massive trampling on the Ramblas in Barcelona by a person with a van,” the Catalan police said on Twitter.

Keith Fleming, an American who lives just off Las Ramblas, told The Associated Press that he was watching television when he heard a noise, looked out over his balcony and “saw women and children just running and they looked terrified.”

Mr. Fleming said that the street was deserted, with the exception of police officers with guns drawn or in riot gear. “It’s just kind of a tense situation,” The A.P. reported him as saying. “Clearly people were scared.”

Facebook activated its safety-check feature for Barcelona, taxis were reportedly giving free rides to help people get out of the city center, and public transit was free in the areas where it was still operating.

American counterterrorism officials in Washington said they were in contact with Spanish authorities to offer any assistance, but underscored that the investigation had just started.

President Trump said on Twitter that the United States condemned the attack and would “do whatever is necessary to help, telling Spaniards to “Be tough & strong, we love you!”

In a subsequent Tweet, Mr. Trump seemed to blame Islamist militants for the attack, citing what is widely believed to be a fictitious account of a military event, and even though the Spanish government had not identified any individuals or groups who might have been behind the attack.

Pro-Islamic State accounts on the Telegram messaging service shared news of the attack. One channel, called “Expansion of the Caliphate,” posted video of the scene of the violence alongside a message in Arabic. “Terror is filling the hearts of the Crusader in the Land of Andalusia,” it said.

In the past year, the Islamic State has devoted resources to translating their channels and messages into Spanish.

Although countries like France and Britain have repeatedly been named in Islamic State propaganda urging followers to plan and stage attacks, Spain has been less in the cross hairs.

The country has, however, been a transit point for recruits of the militant group, both for those going to Syria and those returning. The Spanish police arrested nine people in April who they said may have been connected with deadly attacks in France and Spain.

The attack appeared to follow the playbook of recent assaults in which attackers drove vehicles into crowded stretches of large European cities.

“While it’s not clear whether the attackers corresponded with ISIS prior to the operation, it’s clear that the methods used in the attack is something ISIS encouraged and incited over and again,” said Laith Alkhouri, a director in New York of the business-risk intelligence company Flashpoint, which tracks militant threats and cyberthreats.

In the French resort city of Nice, a man drove a rental truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the seaside Promenade des Anglais last year, killing 86 people.

A few days before Christmas last year, a driver in a stolen van mowed down unsuspecting shoppers at a holiday market in Berlin, killing 12 people and wounding dozens.

At least seven civilians were killed and dozens injured in June when knife-wielding assailants sped across London Bridge in a white van, ramming numerous pedestrians before emerging with large hunting knives to attack the capital’s Borough Market, a crowded nightspot.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility, saying the attack had been carried out by “a detachment of Islamic State fighters.”

That attack was reminiscent of another, on Westminster Bridge in London on March 22, when Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into pedestrians, killing four people.

He then stabbed a police officer to death near Parliament before himself being shot and killed. The police treated that attack, in which 50 were injured, as “Islamist-related terrorism.”

There have been other deadly attacks using vehicles that were not related to Islamist extremists. A British man rammed a rental van into a congregation of Muslims leaving prayers in North London during Ramadan, and a man who was part of white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., drove his car into a crowd on Saturday, killing a woman.

In March 2004, a series of bombs ripped through commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800. The bombings were carried out by a group of North African Islamists that intersected with a band of petty criminals.

The leaders of European countries and cities whose countries have suffered attacks quickly expressed their support and solidarity with Barcelona.

In Germany, which is on alert for remains wary of potential terrorist threats weeks before the general election on Sept. 24, members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet expressed their solidarity with the Spanish people, following the news from Barcelona.

“I am deeply shaken by the terrible news from Barcelona,” said Thomas de Maizière, the country’s interior minister. “Once again, terror has shown its grotesque face.”

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said on Twitter that Barcelona and Paris “are cities of sharing, love and tolerance. Such values are stronger than this despicable and cowardly terrorism. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said his city “stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.”

Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt, Yonette Joseph, Raphael Minder and Mark Walsh.

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Sen. Corker isn’t the only Republican who’s increasingly questioning Trump’s stability – Washington Post

After President Trump’s most recent rhetoric about Charlottesville inflamed even more criticism, a handful of GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), are criticizing Trump directly, while others stay silent. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Once upon a time, there were rumblings in Washington that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was under consideration as a potential secretary of state in the administration of President Trump. That didn’t pan out and, in the months since Trump’s inauguration, it’s become clear that this was for the best, as Corker has repeatedly criticized Trump’s time in office.

In May, after The Post reported that Trump had revealed classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, Corker described the White House as being in a “downward spiral.” When Trump repeatedly bashed his own attorney general, former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, Corker criticized the president’s behavior. On Thursday, after nearly a week of analysis of Trump’s handling of the racial violence in Charlottesville, Corker released a new critique:

.@BobCorker: Trump hasn’t “been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful.”

— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) August 17, 2017

More: Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.” https://t.co/5o99G8qMLG

— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) August 17, 2017

This is an unusual rebuke from a senator for a president from his own party. But polling from Quinnipiac University released Thursday makes clear that Corker isn’t alone within his party in seeing his views of Trump’s performance shift.


Sen. Bob Corker leaves Trump Tower in New York City on May 23, 2016, after meeting with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

The Quinnipiac poll showed a slight improvement for Trump since the beginning of the month, with 39 percent of respondents saying that they view his presidency with approval. Nearly 6 in 10 hold a disapproving view.

Those numbers have increased over the seven months of Trump’s presidency, with more than half of the country now strongly disapproving of how Trump is doing. On Jan. 26, Quinnipiac found that only 40 percent of the country strongly disapproved of Trump. The figure was never that low again.

To the point with Corker, that slip has been seen among Republicans as well. In early August, Trump hit two new lows: his lowest approval from Republicans and, interestingly, his lowest strong approval rating from members of his own party. Three-quarters of Republicans still thought he was doing a good job, just less strongly so.

The new poll shows some improvement, but his strong approval numbers from Republicans are the second-lowest in Quinnipiac’s polling.

Since he took office, most Americans have been skeptical of Trump’s personal characteristics as well. More than half the country views him as a strong person and intelligent, but only a minority agrees with other possible descriptors: that he’s honest, that he cares about average Americans, that he shares our values, that he’s levelheaded or that he’s got good leadership skills.

It’s on that last point that Trump’s seen the biggest decline since inauguration — a drop from about half the country thinking he was a good leader in late January to about 40 percent saying it now.

Among Republicans, the drop has been steeper. Views of his leadership ability rebounded from earlier this month, but there’s still been a 13-point decline in how Republicans feel about Trump’s ability to lead. On every other metric, too, fewer Republicans now say that they think Trump holds these positive qualities than they did shortly after he took office.

On no characteristic does Trump fare more poorly among Republicans than on whether he’s levelheaded. Only 62 percent of members of his own party say that applies, while a third say it doesn’t.

In other words, Corker’s assessment that Trump has not “been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful” is a view that’s held by a lot of other people in the Republican Party.

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Trump recycles discredited Islamic pigs’ blood tale after terrorist attack in Barcelona – Washington Post

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump defended his stance on waterboarding in Charleston, S.C., in February 2016, with a largely discredited story from the internet about killing terrorists with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. (AP)

Hours after an apparent terrorist attack in Barcelona, President Trump on Thursday recycled a largely discredited Internet tale that he promoted on the campaign trail as a way to call attention to what he has called “radical Islamic terrorism.”

In a Twitter message, Trump instructed his 36 million followers to look to the example of  Gen. John J. Pershing, who is said, in stories circulating online, to have dipped bullets in pigs’ blood to execute Islamic terrorists in the Philippines whose religion forbid contact with the animals.

The story has been found to be unsubstantiated by numerous fact-checkers in the media. But Trump first told the story during a campaign rally in February 2016, as he defended his position of supporting methods of torture, such as waterboarding, on terrorist suspects.

Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

Trump’s tweet came hours after a man in Barcelona drove a van at high speeds into a crowd at a popular tourist destination, killing 12 and injuring 50 more, according to local police who are calling the attack an act of terrorism. One man is reportedly in custody in the investigation.

Trump also tweeted message of support for the victims, in which he said the United States “condemns the terror attack.”

The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

The message stood in sharp contrast to Trump’s reaction Saturday to an attack in Charlottesville, when a man drove a car into a group of people protesting a white nationalist rally, killing a woman and injuring 19 others. An alleged Nazi sympathizer who had attended the rally is charged with second-degree murder in the case.

After than incident, Trump blamed the actions of people “on many sides” of the violent clashes.

President Trump on Aug. 15 said that “there’s blame on both sides” for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

Though he denounced the white supremacist hate groups directly two days later, Trump then reversed course and again blamed “both sides” on Tuesday, prompting a widespread political backlash. The president on Tuesday explained that his initial reaction had been muted because he did not have all the “facts” in the case and wanted to be cautious.

[Trump mourns loss of ‘beautiful statues and monuments’ in wake of Charlottesville rally over Robert E. Lee statue]

In his February recitation of the Pershing story, Trump told a crowd of supporters that the general was having trouble dealing with terrorist attacks and caught 50 suspects.

“He took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood,” Trump continued. “And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.”

At one point in telling this story, Trump said: “By the way, this is something you can read in the history books — not a lot of history books because they don’t like teaching this.”

Although Trump never used the word “Muslim” in this story, he was clearly referring to Muslim terrorists and at one point commented: “There’s a whole thing with swine and animals and pigs, and — you know the story, you know they don’t like that.” Pigs are deemed impure by the Koran.

There are several versions of the tale circulating, including one in which the prisoners were buried with dead pigs. The pigs’ blood on the bullets, according to at least one version, would keep a Muslim from entering heaven.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced Trump’s remarks last year in a sharply worded statement that accused the then-candidate of inciting anti-Muslim attacks.

Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.

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Van swerves into crowds in Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas district; 12 reported dead and scores injured – Washington Post

By , and ,

LONDON — A driver swerved a van onto a pedestrian area Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, ramming into crowds and leaving at least a dozen people dead and scores of others injured along a stretch of tree-shaded sidewalk. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the violence, and authorities described the incident as a terrorist attack.

Joaquim Forn, the interior minister of the Catalan regional government, reported in a Twitter message that 13 people were dead. The government later revised the death toll to 12.

Some of those injured were in serious condition, raising the possibility that the death toll could rise. Earlier, Spanish police described the carnage as “massive.”

The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said the attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity.

Hours after the initial attack unfolded, central Barcelona was still on lockdown, and it was unclear whether attackers were still at large. The Catalan Interior Ministry said late Thursday that a car broke through a police checkpoint outside Barcelona and injured two police officers. It was not immediately clear whether the incident, which took place near the town of Sant Just Desvern, just west of Barcelona, was connected to the attack.

Authorities announced that two suspects were in custody.

“There have been people arrested, and this investigation is still ongoing,” Carles Puigdemont, president of the Catalan regional government, told reporters in Barcelona, noting that two suspects were in custody. “Catalonia will always prevail in the face of terrorism. We will always stand for democracy and freedom. We will always be united. Be assured that democracy will always win against barbarism.”

He said that 80 people were hospitalized.

Spanish police did not immediately give details on the driver or other aspects of the incident.

Spanish news media, citing police sources, reported that one person was killed in a shootout after running a police roadblock on the outskirts of the city, but there was no immediately official confirmation of that.

Catalan police said there was no hostage situation in a bar in the city center, denying rumors that quickly spread in the confused hours after the van plowed through the crowd.

Catalan regional police later said they were evacuating people from the Las Ramblas area as they conducted a manhunt following the attack.

Spanish King Felipe VI vowed on Twitter that Spain would not be “terrorized” by murderers and criminals. “All of Spain is Barcelona,” he wrote. “Las Ramblas will return to being for everyone.”

Cities around the world have been on higher alert for vehicle-linked attacks after terrorist crashes in London, Stockholm, Berlin and other places in the past year.

[U.S. college basketball teams in Barcelona say all safe]

Islamic State supporters celebrated the Barcelona attack on Thursday and promoted previous threats made against Spain, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has called on supporters to carry out attacks using vehicles. The group has claimed responsibility for car attacks carried out in Europe, as well as on the campus of Ohio State University last year.

The attack drew offers of assistance from around the world, including the United States.

“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” President Trump wrote on Twitter.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. authorities would offer any help they could.

Video posted on social media showed at least four people sprawled on the sidewalk, some apparently not moving. Hats, handbags and other items were strewn nearby. Some people ran screaming from the scene.

The white van that veered into the pedestrians came to stop with its front scratched and crumpled.

“All of a sudden, the police just shouted at everyone, telling them just to run. There was a really loud kind of crashing noise. I didn’t stop to look back,” Ethan Spieby, a witness caught up in the commotion, told the BBC.

He said he was holed up in a church with about 80 tourists and locals. “They have locked the doors, and I think the police are outside. We’re just waiting in here right now to hear more news. It’s quite scary to be caught up in it.”

Andrew Roby, 35, a tourist visiting from Washington, told The Washington Post he saw a small white van that had plowed into pedestrians on the busy central street, lined with bars, cafes and shops. “All of sudden, everyone started running, so we ran, too.”

Roby said he saw several people, apparently wounded, lying in front of and beside the van. “We saw people on the ground. . . . I heard a bunch of people screaming.”

Tom Markwell, another American tourist, told the BBC that he saw a white van “going entirely too fast. It looked to me as if he was going left to right, hitting people with the little stand. . . . All of a sudden, people were just screaming and running.”

Police immediately cordoned off the area in the center of Barcelona. Stores and restaurants were ordered closed.

Las Ramblas is one of the city’s top tourist zones, with a wide pedestrian promenade flanked by roadways on either side.

The bustling avenue in the heart of Barcelona was packed with tourists at the height of vacation season. Spain has been largely spared major terrorist incidents since a 2004 attack on the Madrid commuter train system, but authorities have been concerned about terrorist risks for some time as neighbors were repeatedly struck.

The Catalonia region of Spain has also faced repeated terrorist attacks over decades from the ETA Basque separatist group. Catalonia is planning an independence vote Oct. 1 over the objections of the national government in Madrid, which says it is unconstitutional.

In July 2016, a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds along a seaside corniche in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people were killed when a driver used a hijacked truck to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

In March, a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and fatally stabbed a police officer. A month later, a rejected asylum seeker from Uzbekistan crashed a truck into a department store in Stockholm in an attack that left five people dead.

Murphy reported from Washington. Mark Berman and David Nakamura in Washington contributed to this report.

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Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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President Trump hits back at Lindsey Graham for criticizing Charlottesville comments – Boston Herald

President Donald Trump attacked fellow Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, early Thursday morning after the South Carolina senator criticized Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Graham denounced the president in a statement on Wednesday, according to CNN.

“Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,” Graham said, referring to Heather Heyer, who died after a driver rammed his car into a group of protesters demonstrating against the white nationalist rally. “I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

Trump responded on Twitter, saying the claim that he made the comparison was a “disgusting lie.”

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie,” Trump wrote.

The president then invoked the 2016 GOP presidential primary, in which he cruised to the party’s nomination while Graham’s presidential campaign failed to take off.

“He just can’t forget his election trouncing,” he said. “The people of South Carolina will remember!”

Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

…and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing.The people of South Carolina will remember!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

Trump said during a heated Q&A with reporters in the lobby of Trump Towers on Tuesday that he was “not putting anybody on a moral plane.”

“What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch,” he said.

“But there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”

Trump placed blame for the violence on “both sides,” the white supremacists and the counter-protesters, of the conflict.

The backlash against Trump’s remarks was swift and noisy, with stars and many members of the president’s own party criticizing him.

Former KKK leader David Duke, meanwhile, thanked Trump for his “honesty and courage.”

“Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world,” Graham said.

Graham said in his statement that Trump’s words were “dividing Americans” and called for the president to work to unify the country.

“Mr. President, I encourage you to try to bring us together as a nation after this horrific event in Charlottesville,” he said. “Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.”

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Van swerves into crowds in Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas district; 13 reported dead and more than 50 injured – Washington Post

By , and ,

LONDON — A driver swerved a van onto a pedestrian area Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, ramming into crowds and leaving at least 13 people dead and more than 50 injured scattered along a stretch of tree-shaded sidewalk. Authorities described the incident as a terrorist attack.

Joaquim Forn, the interior minister of the Catalan regional government, confirmed the casualty toll in a Twitter message.

Some of those injured were in serious condition, raising the possibility that the death toll could rise.

Earlier, Spanish police described the carnage as “massive.”

Spanish police did not immediately give details on the driver or other aspects of the incident.

Regional police arrested one man in connection with the attack, Catalan police authorities announced on Twitter, without offering additional identification. They said there was no hostage situation in a bar in the city center, denying rumors that quickly spread in the confused hours after the van plowed through the crowd.

Catalan regional police later said they were evacuating people from the Las Ramblas area as they conducted a manhunt following the attack, the Associated Press reported.

Local news media subsequently reported that one attacker was killed in a shootout with police. There was no immediate official confirmation of that account.

Spanish King Felipe VI vowed on Twitter that Spain would not be “terrorized” by murderers and criminals. “All of Spain is Barcelona,” he wrote. “Las Ramblas will return to being for everyone.”

Cities around the world have been on higher alert for vehicle-linked attacks after terrorist crashes in London, Stockholm, Berlin and other places in the past year.

[U.S. college basketball teams in Barcelona say all safe]

Islamic State supporters celebrated the Barcelona attack on Thursday and promoted previous threats made against Spain, but the group did not immediately issue a claim of responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has called on supporters to carry out attacks using vehicles. The group has claimed responsibility for car attacks carried out in Europe, as well as on the campus of Ohio State University last year.

The attack drew offers of assistance from around the world, including the United States.

“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” President Trump wrote on Twitter.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. authorities would offer any help they could.

Video posted on social media showed at least four people sprawled on the sidewalk, some apparently not moving. Hats, handbags and other items were strewn nearby. Some people ran screaming from the scene.

The white van that veered into the pedestrians came to stop with its front scratched and crumpled.

“All of a sudden, the police just shouted at everyone, telling them just to run. There was a really loud kind of crashing noise. I didn’t stop to look back,” Ethan Spieby, a witness caught up in the commotion, told the BBC.

He said he was holed up in a church with about 80 tourists and locals. “They have locked the doors, and I think the police are outside. We’re just waiting in here right now to hear more news. It’s quite scary to be caught up in it.”

Andrew Roby, 35, a tourist visiting from Washington, told The Washington Post he saw a small white van that had plowed into pedestrians on the busy central street, lined with bars, cafes and shops. “All of sudden, everyone started running, so we ran, too.”

Roby said he saw several people, apparently wounded, lying in front of and beside the van. “We saw people on the ground. . . . I heard a bunch of people screaming.”

Tom Markwell, another American tourist, told the BBC that he saw a white van “going entirely too fast. It looked to me as if he was going left to right, hitting people with the little stand. . . . All of a sudden, people were just screaming and running.”

Police immediately cordoned off the area in the center of Barcelona. Stores and restaurants were ordered closed.

Las Ramblas is one of the city’s top tourist zones, with a wide pedestrian promenade flanked by roadways on either side.

The bustling avenue in the heart of Barcelona was packed with tourists at the height of vacation season. Spain has been largely spared major terrorist incidents since a 2004 attack on the Madrid commuter train system, but authorities have been concerned about terrorist risks for some time as neighbors were repeatedly struck.

The Catalonia region of Spain has also faced repeated terrorist attacks over decades from the ETA Basque separatist group. Catalonia is planning an independence vote Oct. 1 over the objections of the national government in Madrid, which says it is unconstitutional.

In July 2016, a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds along a seaside corniche in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people were killed when a driver used a hijacked truck to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

In March, a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and fatally stabbed a police officer. A month later, a rejected asylum seeker from Uzbekistan crashed a truck into a department store in Stockholm in an attack that left five people dead.

Murphy reported from Washington. Mark Berman and David Nakamura in Washington contributed to this report.

Read more:

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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Trump ‘Sad’ Over Removal of ‘Our Beautiful Statues’ – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Under fire for defending racist activist groups, President Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that he was “sad” to see United States’ history torn apart by the removal of “our beautiful statues and monuments,” echoing a popular refrain of white supremacist groups that oppose the removal of Confederate monuments.

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The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

Officials in several states have called for the removal of public monuments that have become symbols of the Confederacy.

The Twitter posts were the latest in his escalating remarks that critics contend validate white supremacist groups who led a bloody rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va. The proposed removal of a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park in Charlottesville spurred the demonstrations.

Mr. Trump’s comments on the Confederate monuments on Thursday appeared to shift attention away from his remarks that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, and instead focus the debate on the historical argument to keep the statues in place.

Many people who do not identify as white supremacists support keeping the monuments as a connection to their history and heritage.

A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll on Monday and Tuesday of 1,125 adults showed 86 percent of the Republicans surveyed thought Confederate statues should remain in place as a symbol of history.

Mr. Trump’s tweets came the morning after his personal lawyer forwarded an email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that painted Lee in glowing terms and echoed secessionist sentiment from the Civil War era.

On Saturday, the day of the protests, Mr. Trump did not condemn neo-Nazis or white supremacists in his public remarks about the violence, prompting criticism that his omission suggested support for the racist groups. An Ohio man with white supremacist ties is accused of driving his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people.

Two days later, Mr. Trump bowed to pressure and said racism was “evil” and named racist organizations in his follow-up remarks about Charlottesville. But on Tuesday, Mr. Trump reverted to his initial public posture and blamed “both sides” for the violence.

Mr. Trump said many of those who opposed the statue’s removal were good people protesting the loss of their culture, and he questioned whether taking down statues of Lee could lead to monuments of George Washington also being removed.

Most of the statues were erected in the 1890s, as Jim Crow laws were being established, and in the 1950s, during a period of Southern resistance to the civil rights movement.

Some in favor of keeping the statues argue that the interpretation of the monuments could be revised to teach future generations about white privilege. But practically, that is unrealistic, said W. Fitzhugh Brundage, a history professor at the University of North Carolina. Mr. Brundage said it would be expensive to add explanatory plaques next to the Confederate monuments, and that may not be a prominent enough display of the reinterpretation.

To those who argue that the statues are not about hate but heritage, Mr. Brundage said relocating them to a museum would not erase the heritage.

“You’re not erasing history,” Mr. Brundage said. “You’re just transforming a landscape so that you can make it one you’re comfortable living in.”

Corey Stewart, a Republican who has said he plans to run against Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, in 2018, defended Mr. Trump on Thursday.

“The president is absolutely right,” Mr. Stewart, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman in Virginia, said on CNN. “After they get done removing statues to Confederate generals because, arguably, they fought to preserve the institution of slavery, they are going right after slave owners, including the founders — Jefferson, Madison, Washington — and when you undermine the founding fathers, you undermine the founding documents, namely the Constitution of the United States.”

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Van swerves into crowds in Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas district; police report dead and injured – Washington Post

By , and ,

LONDON — A driver swerved a van onto a pedestrian area Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, ramming into crowds and leaving dead and injured people scattered along a stretch of tree-shaded sidewalk. Police described the incident as an apparent terrorist attack.

A police official in Barcelona said at least one person has been confirmed dead and 32 others injured in the van attack. Some of those injured were in serious condition, raising the possibility that the death toll could rise.

Earlier, Spanish police described the carnage as “massive.”

Spanish police did not immediately give details on the driver or other aspects of the incident. The newspaper El Mundo put the death toll as high as 13, citing police sources. The information could not be independently confirmed.

El Pais and the Agence France-Presse news agency also reported that a possible suspect was holed up in a bar. Gunshots were heard in the area, but the source of the gunfire was not clear. Later, the Spanish broadcaster TVE said a possible suspect was arrested, but gave no immediate details.

Cities around the world have been on higher alert for vehicle-linked attacks after terrorist crashes in London, Stockholm, Berlin and other places in the past year.

[U.S. college basketball teams in Barcelona say all safe]

Islamic State supporters celebrated the Barcelona attack on Thursday and promoted previous threats made against Spain, but the group did not immediately issue a claim of responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has previously called on supporters to carry out attacks using vehicles. The group has claimed responsibility for car attacks carried out in Europe, as well as on the campus of Ohio State University last year.

Video posted on social media showed at least four people sprawled on the sidewalk, some apparently not moving. Hats, handbags and other items were strewn nearby. Some people ran screaming from the scene.

The white van that veered into the pedestrians came to stop with its front scratched and crumpled.

“All of a sudden, the police just shouted at everyone, telling them just to run. There was a really loud kind of crashing noise. I didn’t stop to look back,” Ethan Spieby, a witness caught up in the commotion, told the BBC.

He said he was holed up in a church with about 80 tourists and locals. “They have locked the doors, and I think the police are outside. We’re just waiting in here right now to hear more news. It’s quite scary to be caught up in it.”

Andrew Roby, 35, a tourist visiting from Washington, told The Washington Post he saw a small white van that had plowed into pedestrians on the busy central street, lined with bars, cafes and shops. “All of sudden, everyone started running, so we ran, too.”

Roby said he saw several people, apparently wounded, lying in front of and beside the van. “We saw people on the ground … I heard a bunch of people screaming.”

Tom Markwell, another American tourist, told the BBC that he saw a white van “going entirely too fast. It looked to me as if he was going left to right, hitting people with the little stands … All of a sudden, people were just screaming and running.”

Police immediately cordoned off the area in the center of Barcelona. Stores and restaurants were ordered closed.

Las Ramblas is one of the city’s top tourist zones, with a wide pedestrian promenade flanked by roadways on either side.

In Washington, a White House official said Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “is aware of the situation, and keeping the president abreast.”

In July 2016, a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds along a seaside corniche in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people were killed when a driver used a hijacked trick to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

In March, a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and fatally stabbed a police officer. A month later, a rejected asylum seeker from Uzbekistan crashed a truck into a department store in Stockholm in an attack that left five people dead.

Murphy reported from Washington. Mark Berman and David Nakamura in Washington contributed to this report.

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Confederate memorials: An excuse for white supremacists to spew hatred and Trump to tweet nonsense – Washington Post

By ,

It’s not really about the monuments, is it?

The racist display in Charlottesville over the weekend that ended in clashes and death was supposedly over a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The white supremacists who gathered in Virginia claimed they were protesting the statue’s removal.

Baloney. That statue was their excuse to light tiki torches, fly Confederate and Nazi flags, play commando dress-up and yell the hate they’ve been echoing to one another for years now.

President Trump lamented the loss of these monuments in a Thursday morning tweetstorm: “Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish.”

Meanwhile, the great-great grandsons of Stonewall Jackson weighed in, and they weren’t on Trump’s side.

“The people who descended on Charlottesville last weekend were there to make a naked show of force for white supremacy,” wrote William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian, in a letter published in Slate. “We are ashamed of the monument…Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols. Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy.”

And here’s more irony: those Confederate monuments don’t mean that much to the people they are supposed to outrage either, as I discovered in Baltimore after four memorials were spirited out of the city in the dead of night.

“Didn’t offend me any,” said an African-American man who came to take pictures of the empty pedestal that once held Lee and Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. “Leave ‘em. Take ‘em. Doesn’t mean anything to me. Doesn’t affect my life.”

[Trump lit the torches of white supremacy in Charlottesville. We must extinguish them.]

In Baltimore, the city where the first assassination plot against President Lincoln was hatched and the state that harbored John Wilkes Booth after he shot the president, the Confederate monuments haven’t really been a rallying point – for anyone.

Still, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) decided to order the quiet removal of the monuments.

Across the country, from Kentucky to California, city leaders are moving to get rid of the Confederate memorials before they become flashpoints. In Richmond , the former capital of the Confederacy, Mayor Levar Stoney (D) said the statues along Monument Avenue must go. And one in a Birmingham, Ala. park was covered in plywood and tarps this week.

The Baltimore City Council had started talking about getting rid of its monuments in 2015, after white supremacist Dylan Roof killed nine African Americans at a bible study inside a Charleston church. They’d continue to discuss it as New Orleans removed its monuments earlier this year.

But Pugh – watching the ugliness unfold in Charlottesville – didn’t think it was wise to wait. In a city with real problems – a soaring homicide rate, a crippling heroin epidemic, struggling schools – a clash with white supremacists would be a calamity.

It was done without fanfare, before there were protests and demonstrations, counterdemonstrations and riots. Baltimore is good at unrest, remember?

“If those guys came here, there would be blood on the streets, it would’ve been all-out war,” said one of the residents who came to check out the empty space above a pedestal.

In posh Mount Vernon, people walking tiny dogs on cobblestones paused Wednesday morning.

“It’s gone,” one dog walker told another, as she looked into the air that was once occupied by a stern, bronze Roger B. Taney, a U.S. Supreme Court justice and slavery defender who said black people could be U.S. Citizens in the 1857 Dred Scott decision.

The Taney pedestal wasn’t empty a full day before Baltimore artist Shawn Theron drove up to it, pulled out a ladder and climbed it, erecting a painting of his that said “SPREAD LOVE”.

Taney’s statue in Annapolis may not survive much longer either. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wants to remove it from the State House grounds.

[Removing a slavery defender’s statue: Taney wrote one of the Supreme Court’s worst rulings]

In Baltimore, it’s a done deal: Gone, gone, gone and gone. Empty stone pedestals remained where the reminders of America’s deepest divide once stood.

For some, it was a positive move toward righting history. Michael Brown said the monument deeply offended him every time he drove past.

“Every day I saw it, it was a reminder, a constant reminder,” said Brown, a 53-year-old African American pool table mechanic who drove to the site to see the emptiness. “And especially having them here, in front of a place of learning. That wasn’t appropriate. And now we can move on.”

But truth be told, of the dozens of folks I talked to, Brown was one of the few who had an opinion on the statue.

“It’s just men on horses. That’s all it was to me,” said a black woman walking past the pedestal, still in her chef’s coat, fresh off work. To her, taking time to be offended by a bunch of bronze is a luxury.

“For a long time, I didn’t really know what it was,” said Donique Beauford, 34, who is black and stopped to check out the Lee and Jackson pedestal.

Still, she’s glad it’s gone. Same with Ericka Boyd, 46, a black Baltimorean who wanted to see the void left behind once Taney was removed.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know who that was,” Boyd said. “Now that I know, yes. I’m glad he’s gone. There’s no reason for that to be here.”

She was surprised by the middle-of-the-night operation.

“That part reminded me of the Colts,” she said, remembering the terrible night in 1984, when Baltimore’s football team packed up – literally – in the middle of the night and took off for Indianapolis.

She loved the Colts. They meant a lot to the city.

The statues? Nope.

Twitter: @petulad

Read more Petula Dvorak:

Nazi flags in Charlottesville were an affront to WWII veterans. And they fought back.

Our demolition derby summer.: In Trumpland, the wrecks just keep coming

This woman’s name appears on the Declaration of Independence. So why don’t we know her story?

The newest exhibit on the Mall? Fear of young African Americans

The flag had hung in the Kennedy Center for years. Just one problem: It was wrong.

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Barcelona terror attack: Bodies seen lying in the street as officials confirm deaths – Fox News

DEVELOPING: The terrorists alleged to have plowed a van into a crowd of pedestrians in a popular tourist area — resulting in confirmed deaths — were holed up in a Barcelona restaurant Thursday as images of the carnage, showing bodies lying crumpled and bleeding in the street, flooded forth from the Spanish city.

Catalan police tweeted that “there are mortal victims and injured from the crash” without specifying numbers. The Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper is reporting at least one dead and 20 injured.

The incident took place on Las Ramblas of Barcelona, the famous main pedestrian walk way that crosses the city. Police described the incident on Twitter as a “massive crash.”

Related Image

A police officer cordon off a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona say a white van has jumped the sidewalk in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, injuring several people. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)Expand / Collapse

A police officer cordon off a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017.

 (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The El Pais newspaper said police were treating the crash as a terror attack. Quoting unnamed police sources, El Pais said the two perpetrators of the crash were holed up in a bar in Tallers Street. There was no immediate police confirmation of the report.

In a photograph shown by public broadcaster RTVE, three people were lying on the ground in the street and were apparently being helped by police and others.

A grisly video of the incident appeared to show at least five people lying motionless on the ground, with legs twisted and heads bloodied.

“It was real chaos, people started running, screaming. There was a loud bang,” eyewitness Ethan Spibey told Sky News.

Footage from reporters on the ground shows armed officers combing a market.

Related Image

The scene in Barcelona.Expand / Collapse

The scene in Barcelona.

El Pais quoted unnamed police sources as saying the perpetrators of the crash were holed up in a bar in Tallers Street. There was no immediate police confirmation of the report.

Catalan emergency services said people should not go to the area around Placa Catalunya, according to Reuters. 

Witnesses told El Pais the driver ran over several people, and there were injured people lying on the ground. 

Related Image

Police officers tell members of the public to leave the scene in a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Police in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona say a white van has jumped the sidewalk in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, injuring several people. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)Expand / Collapse

Police officers tell members of the public to leave the scene in a street in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017

 (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

One witness said the van “has trampled people while crossing the traffic light.”

The Ministry of the Interior said on Twitter: “There has just been a massive crash on the Ramblas in Barcelona by a person with a van. There are injured.”

Emergency services in Catalonia say they have asked the Metro and train services in the area to close.

Police cordoned off the broad street and shut down its stores. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of the emergency services. A helicopter hovered over the scene.

Facebook has activated its Safety Check feature that lets users notify friends and family that they are safe following the Barcelona attack.

The U.S consulate in Barcelona said on Twitter it was “aware of a reported incident at Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Please avoid the area and monitor local police @mossos for updates.”

“Americans in Spain: If you are safe, be sure to notify friends and loved ones. If you use social media, be sure to update your status,” the consulate tweeted.

The National Counterterrorism Center, the government hub for threat analysis, confirmed to Fox News the center is monitoring the events in Barcelona and note the use of a vehicle as a weapon. 

Since July 2016, vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in terror attack across Europe, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm. 

Las Ramblas is a packed tourist area in central Barcelona whose central feature is a broad promenade leading to the water. The stretch is lined with numerous shops, restaurants, a sprawling market and Gaudí architecture.

People walk down a wide, pedestrianized path in the center of the street, but cars can travel on either side of the area.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Judson Berger, The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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