14 people died in two attacks in Spain on Thursday and Friday. But the terror had already begun on Wednesday, when an explosion at a house in the town of Alcanar, 120 miles south of Barcelona, killed one person and left 16 other people injured. 

The three terrorist incidents that occurred in Spain add to the brutal lacerations that the body of Europe has sustained the last couple of years, as attackers spread their horror across such European cities as London, Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin. 

In the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks, citizens from more than 30 countries were among those killed and wounded. The attacks share similarities with other violent acts in Europe where vehicles were used to plough into pedestrians spreading chaos and taking innocent lives.

Timeline of events in Alcanar, Barcelona, Vic, Sant Just Desvern, Cambrils

Wednesday: Catalan police confirmed that Wednesday’s deadly explosion in a house in Alcanar is linked to terrorism and the Barcelona attack that occurred a day later. The first explosion took place at around 11.15pm Wednesday, and a second one, at around 5pm at exactly the same place where the house collapsed. Police didn’t clarify whether the second explosion was also linked to the Barcelona attack. 

While initially, police believed this was a gas explosion due to the existence of butane and propane gas canisters in the house, on Thursday night, after the attack in Barcelona, they connected the two incidents. 

At least one person believed to be of Moroccan origin was killed and 16 others were injured in the two explosions. The house was inhabited by two brothers of Maghreb origin. 

Thursday: On Thursday, at 5pm in Barcelona, outside the Plaça de Catalunya metro station, a white Fiat was driven by a man down the boulevard of Las Ramblas, killing 13 people and leaving 100 injured. The van was smashed and the attacker escaped the scene.

An hour and a half later, in the town of Vic, police found another van which appeared to have been hired at the same time as the Fiat and was supposed to be used as a getaway vehicle.

At 7.30pm, in another town near Barcelona, Sant Just Desvern, a man who tries to drive through a roadblock, runs over two officers and is then killed by the police. On Friday morning, however, Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn, claims that the man died of knife wounds. The incident cannot yet be linked by police to either the Las Ramblas or the Cambrils attacks. 

A 28-year-old Moroccan man turned himself in after he had seen his name and image circulating in the media. Driss Oukabir claimed that his passport and ID were stolen and that he had nothing to do with the attack. According to the newspaper El País, Oukabir, or someone else with his ID, rented the Fiat and carried out the attack.

At 9pm the Islamic State (ISIS) takes responsibility for the Barcelona attack saying that the perpetrators were “soldiers of the Islamic State.” This, however, doesn’t mean that the attackers had any connection to ISIS, since the terrorist organisation usually claims responsibility for such kind of attacks.

A second suspect is arrested at 9.30pm in Alcanar. The man was born in Melilla in northern Morocco. 

Friday: In the early hours of Friday, at around 1am, police kill 5 suspects, after an attack in Cambrils. The attackers drove an Audi A3 car into pedestrians, injuring seven people, including a police officer. A woman hit dies later of her injuries. The attackers were wearing fake suicide vests. 

At around 8.30am, the police arrest a third suspect in Ripoll where Oukabir had been arrested on Thursday. The suspect is linked to both terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils and is identified as the 18-year-old Moussa Oukabir, the younger brother of Driss Oukabir who had claimed yesterday to be innocent.

No terrorist record

Police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, who is investigating the attacks, said that the four suspects had no history of terrorist activity. Three suspects arrested in Ripoll and one in Alcanar are Moroccan citizens and one is Spanish. Their ages range from 21 to 34. Trapero confirmed that it is clear that the Alcanar home where Wednesday’s explosion took place was the place where the terrorists were plotting an explosion and perhaps other attacks. He said: “It was a group, we do not know the specific number, but we do not rule out that they had other attacks in mind.” He added that there was now a “clear link” between the Alcanar explosion and the two other attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils.

Support for Spain

Theresa May said she was "sickened by the senseless loss of life in Barcelona" and that the UK “stands with Spain against terror.” She said: "Following the attacks in Manchester and London, Spain stood alongside the British people. Tonight, Britain stands with Spain against the evil of terrorism."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the attack as “revolting” and said that she was thinking of the victims with “profound sadness.”

Putin and Trump condemned the attacks but called for more violence against the forces of terror. Putin called for the world to unite in an “uncompromising battle against the forces of terror" and Trump advised that lessons should be learned from General Pershing’s methods—a myth about a US general who dipped bullets in pigs’ blood to kill Muslims. 

Whatever the strategies, suggestions and ways to fight terrorism, these kinds of attacks are extremely hard to predict or stop. The Barcelona attack was clearly meant to hurt at a global scale; it inflicted a wound at the heart of a tourist destination where people from different nationalities gather. As the Spanish police is currently searching to find the van driver of the Barcelona attack, people are mourning their dead, and others are watching with horror as the details of the events unfold. The terrorists might have hurt the body of Barcelona, Spain, or Europe, but they cannot kill its spirit.