The Islamic terrorists who carried out a killing rampage in Barcelona earlier this week had plans to blow up the iconic Catholic basilica of la Sagrada Familia, according to new reports.
The Spanish newspaper El Español has noted that the jihadist cell had a stockpile of explosives at a nearby property in Alcanar (Tarragona) and intended to use three vans to detonate them in three different points of the city in order to inflict the greatest possible damage. An accidental explosion at the Alcanar estate on Wednesday left the terrorists without ammunition and forced them to improvise the vehicle attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the report states.
“They were preparing one or several attacks in Barcelona and an explosion in Alcanar stopped this as they no longer had the material they needed to commit attacks of an even bigger scope,” said Josep Lluis Trapero of Catalonia’s police.
The explosion killed one jihadists and left another in serious condition.
The prime target of the attack was meant to be the Catholic Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) basilica, an enormous neo-gothic structure designed by Spanish artist Antoni Gaudí, which draws huge numbers of visitors and pilgrims each day. Construction of the still unfinished church began in 1882 and is projected for completion in 2026.
According to reports, the terrorists had chosen the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia as their main target because it is a symbol of the city and of the Christian religion, as well as for the massive flow of visitors. During 2016, the church was visited by some 4.5 million people, and more than 20 million people came to view the structure from the outside.
The second bombing objective was La Rambla, which in addition to the continuous flow of pedestrians passing by this emblematic walk, is located next to the Market of La Boquería, one of the most frequented destinations in the city.
The third target has not yet been identified, but investigators suspect it was to be a port area.
Just before 5:00pm on Thursday, one of the jihadists drove a rented van through the city’s tourist hotspot of La Rambla, a pedestrian walkway, mowing down people and even swerving in an attempt to hit as many victims as possible. In the end, the man killed 14 people and injured dozens more in his rampage.
The design of the original attack, including the resources and number of persons involved, has confirmed that the operation was the work of a coordinated jihadist cell, rather than of “lone wolves.”
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