Spain remembers terror attacks that killed 16 in Catalonia


Spain remembers terror attacks that killed 16 in Catalonia

King Felipe VI was among hundreds of people attending ceremonies in Barcelona.

Barcelona marks the anniversary (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Barcelona marks the anniversary (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Barcelona has marked the first anniversary of terror attacks that killed 16 people, against a backdrop of division over the Catalan region’s pursuit of independence from Spain.

King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, prime minister Pedro Sanchez and other government officials were among hundreds of people attending ceremonies in the north-eastern city.

The commemorations included a flower-laying ceremony by victims’ families on the famed Las Ramblas promenade, where a van mowed down scores of pedestrians.

The van killed 14 and another victim was fatally stabbed.

Another person died of stab wounds in a separate attack the next day in nearby Cambrils, a seaside town where a separate ceremony is scheduled for Saturday.

More than 120 people were injured.

The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group. Spanish authorities say they dismantled the cell, with its members either killed in the operation or arrested.

Amid a heavy police presence on Friday, a musical performance took place in the city’s broad Plaza Catalunya. Written behind the stage was the slogan “Barcelona, city of peace”.

Political tension was also present after weeks of uncertainty about whether the monarch and prime minister would attend the commemorations.

Demonstrators protest against the Spanish King (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Catalan politicians demanding the wealthy region’s independence from Spain had initially indicated they would use the event to express their anger at the king and the head of Spain’s central government for denying them what they say is their right to self-determination, but they backed off from that threat.

A victims’ association, the Assembly for the Consideration and Valorisation of those Affected by Terrorism, urged politicians to call “a truce” as a homage to those killed.

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Even so, the depth of feeling on the independence issue made itself felt.

A huge pro-independence banner was hung from a building overlooking the Plaza Catalunya featuring an upside-down photo of the king.

The banner hangs from a building in the Plaza Catalunya (Manu Fernandez/AP)

It read, in English: “The Spanish king is not welcome in the Catalan countries.” Nobody claimed responsibility.

Participants in a small march later along Las Ramblas held signs saying: “Catalonia has no king.” Some people along the street applauded them.

Other banners were hung elsewhere in the city calling for the release of Catalan pro-independence officials being held in jail over secession efforts.

With no other extremist attacks in Spain over the past year, interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who is in charge of domestic security, said jihadism is “clearly in retreat”.

“It’s not going any further in Europe or in Spain,” he told Cadena Ser radio, putting that down to successful policies against radicalisation.

But some analysts have warned that the impending release from prison of thousands of terrorism convicts could represent a new threat for Europe.

Press Association

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