Rambla terror attacks: the three moments where it could have been different

The trial reveals occasions when Mossos and terrorists coincided

An image of the terrorist Younes Abouyaaqoub fleeing through the streets of Barcelona after the attack on the Rambla / ARA

The images once again overshadowed the trial for the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks in their second week. After the videos of the terrorists preparing explosives in Alcanar, unpublished images of the attack on the Rambla and the escape of the perpetrator were seen. The stories of the two Mossos d'Esquadra who shot down Younes Abouyaaqoub in Subirats were also heard for the first time. Almost all the testimonies of the week were Mossos, three of whose statements included moments where things could have been different.

One of those who testified arrived on August 17, 2017, shortly after the terrorist attack on the Rambla, in Plaça Gardunya, behind the Boqueria market. "I see a man of Arab origin with a striped polo shirt and sunglasses. He stops and looks at the scene with a face of satisfaction and overexcitement," recalled the agent, who was in civilian clothes and had broken into the place with a car without logos, only with the siren. "We crossed our eyes. We stared at each other for five or ten seconds. As the Boqueria was evacuated, I received the message with the description of the driver of the van: "We are looking for a lad dressed in stripes, says the Guardia Urbana".

"I realise that this is the lad that I have come across", explained the Mosso, who immediately made a connection and warned that he had left from behind the Boqueria in the direction of Plaça Catalunya. "It seemed that he was hiding something in his right arm. I didn't see what he was hiding. He stayed about five or six meters away". Despite the alert, Abouyaaqoub was not caught as he fled the centre of Barcelona. The day after, the officer was shown some images of the possible terrorists so that he could recognise who he had seen and pointed out the driver of the van.

A chance meeting at the roundabout

The second week of the trial also revealed another moment when Mossos and terrorists met without the police knowing who they were. At 3.25 p.m. on 17 August, the police were told of an accident in Cambrils. "The first information was that it had occurred on the N-340," said one of the agents who went to the scene. As they could not find it and the stretch coincided with the AP-7, they headed for the other road. "We went to a roundabout. To get there, we had to turn around. I was driving, with the siren on, and I looked to the left to see if any vehicles were coming. I saw a person on foot about 50 meters away. It was only a glimpse because I was watching the traffic.

"We went around the roundabout and he was gone. The person who had caused the accident had left the place. I slowed down and asked my partner. He saw that he was walking towards the motorway and since he said that he is walking and not running, I didn't pay any more attention to him", he added. They still didn't have a description of the person who had left the accident, but when they had left the roundabout 10 seconds earlier, another patrol car arrived at the scene of the accident and witnesses said it was a boy in a pair of grey trousers and a grey T-shirt. "I connect him with the person I saw. We tried to turn around and couldn't find him." It was Mohamed Hichamy, who a few hours later would carry out the attack in Cambrils.

Judge Alfonso Guevara, who conducted the trial on 17-A at the Audiencia Nacional and showed a change of attitude in the second week after the lawyers' complaint, uncovered a third situation in which things could have been different. In the statement of another mosso, he asked about the shots fired by two officers when Abouyaaqoub rammed the checkpoint on Diagonal Avenue at 6.45 p.m. on 17 August. Two bullets hit the Ford Focus driven by the terrorist but two more ended up in a passing Citroën Xsara. According to the eye inspection report, one of the shots went through the headrest of the driver of this second vehicle.

"The headrest of the driver's seat has two bullet holes at the end of it, one in the rear and one in the front," states the report in the case file of the attacks. The bullet did not injure anyone. Faced with the judge's perplexity that this shot had not caused any personal damage, the Mosso admitted: "It was a very unlucky day but in this case there was some good fortune".

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