Yesterday this newspaper ran the exclusive story of how the terrorists that were shot down in Cambrils after ramming into a police checkpoint went into the Cambrils Cooperativa mini-market up to four times, only hours before the attack. CCTV footage from the service station on the A-7 motorway shows the jihadists at least on four separate shopping trips.
The earliest footage is from August 17 at about 16.00, shortly before the attack on La Rambla in Barcelona city, and it shows Mohamed Hychami after he had just accidentally crashed the van he had hired in Parets del Vallès at 12.57. Hychami had driven into another vehicle on the AP-7 and ran away on a footpath when the other driver insisted that they call the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police). The terrorist got to the service station, where he bought a bottle of water. His accident forced the terrorists to alter their plans again and conduct a “desperate” attack on Cambrils’ promenade. Everything suggests that, after the accident, Hychami phoned the rest of the group to arrange a pick-up. Presumably it was at this service station where the group met to re-think the attack they had originally planned. The Mossos are looking into whether the terrorists decided to strike in Cambrils while at the service station. A woman died in the attack and seven other passers-by were injured. The whole terrorist group was shot dead.
The jihadists paid the mini-market a second visit in the early evening, between 6 and 7 pm. This was after the Barcelona city attack conducted by Younes Abouyaaqoub, but nobody knows whether the Cambrils group was aware of its outcome. Younes' brother, Houssaine Abouyaaqoub, can be seen purchasing credit for his phone, ARA has learnt.
The third clip was recorded at 20.55 and it shows three of the terrorists that would be killed only four hours later: Omar Hychami, Houssaine Abouyaaqoub and Moussa Oukabir. They can be seen buying cigarette lighters. One of them even jokes about the specific lighter he wants. Their conversation and demeanour seem relaxed, with only one of them looking nervous on the CCTV.
Shortly afterwards (at 21.26 according to the National Court’s interlocutory decree), the terrorists bought an axe and four knives from a shop in Cambrils. Their plan was to drive to the promenade —one of the busiest spots in town— and run over, axe and stab to death as many passers-by as possible.
Three hours before the attack
The CCTV footage that the Catalan police have now got hold of shows Omar Hychami paying one last visit to the mini-market at about 22.00, three hours before the attack in Cambrils. Hychami bought two baguettes, some omelettes and sports drinks. The Mossos found a mini-market receipt inside the Audi A3 driven by the terrorists.
Police are trying to ascertain whether the group had been to the same shop on previous days or whether this meeting point was also decided in the spur of the moment, given that it is close to the spot where Hychami had to abandon the rental van with which they had planned to carry out an attack similar to the one in Barcelona.
The service station is located between Cambrils and Riudecanyes, the village where the terror cell had set up a meeting place, as we learnt yesterday. The service station is by Cambrils, on the A-7, a road that runs parallel to the AP-7 motorway where Mohamed Hychami had his crash at 15.25 that same day. During the investigation, a derelict farmhouse in Riudecanyes was found to have been used by the terrorists, according to the National Court’s interlocutory decree. Outside the building, police found personal documents belonging to two of the terrorists among the remnants of a small fire. They also collected several receipts which would indicate that the group had purchased acetone between August 1 and 2, as well as the necessary material to build bombs, and on August 16 they bought fifteen pillow cases and plastic restraints in Sant Carles de la Ràpita. In the Alcanar safe house, the terrorist cell stored 500 litres of acetone and over 100 large gas canisters. The night before the Barcelona attack, while the terrorists were handling the explosives, there was a fortuitous blast that forced them to change their strategy. Later, their alternative course of action was altered again by the crash on the AP-7.