'Islamist cell members' appear in court over Barcelona van atrocity

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Four men accused of being part of an Islamist terror cell behind the van attack that killed 13 people in Barcelona appeared in court today amid heavy security.

The four — the only ones left alive from a 12-strong group of suspects — were brought to the National Court in Madrid a day after the alleged driver of the van was shot dead by police.

Driss Oukabir, Mohammed Aalla, Salh el Karib and Mohamed Houli Chemal were charged with terrorism, murder and weapons possession at the closed-door hearing.

Three men were arrested in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll. One was detained after being injured in an explosion in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where a house that was accidentally blown apart on Wednesday night turned out to be a bomb factory.

Driss Oukabir, one of four arrested in relation to the terrorist attacks in Catalonia (EPA)

Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, was shot dead in a vineyard outside Subirats, west of Barcelona. Police identified him  as the driver of the white Renault van that careered along packed Las Ramblas last Thursday, leaving 13 dead and 120 injured from 34 countries.

He was wearing a fake suicide vest and carrying a bag of knives when he was spotted hiding among vines at 5pm yesterday.

When confronted, he is said to have stood and opened his vest to reveal the suicide belt, and shouted “Allahu Akbar” as officers opened fire. Today further details emerged of his escape. Abouyaaqoub fled on foot, stabbing to death a man who was parking his car and fleeing in the vehicle.

Salh el Karib was taken to the National Court in Madrid today (EPA)

One report said he then walked 25 miles from a town on the outskirts of Barcelona, where he ditched the hijacked car, to Subirats, where he was shot dead.

He changed his T-shirt and walked by night, hiding during the day, with no phone, money or belongings on him, according to a Spanish newspaper.

Mohamed Aallaa, 27, is among the four facing terrorism, murder and weapons charges (EPA)

A total of 15 people were killed in the attacks, with the victims coming from 34 countries around the world, including British-born seven-year-old Julian Cadman. Coffins of some of the victims of the Barcelona massacre were seen arriving in Rome.

After the attack in Las Ramblas an Audi A3 rammed into passers-by in the seaside town of Cambrils and five men leaped out and tried to stab people.

The five were shot dead by police, while a Spanish woman was killed in the assault. The suspected ringleader of the terror cell, imam Abdelbaki Es Satty is believed to have died in the blast in Alcanar.  

Today it emerged that he was ordered to leave Spain in 2014 after finishing a prison sentence for drugs offences. The 42-year-old Moroccan won his fight to stay in the country after appealing to a judge.

He then sought asylum which enabled him to move freely among the 26 EU countries that form part of the Schengen area.

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