The Malta Independent 18 November 2017, Saturday

Police: 'False alarm' prompted Barcelona basilica evacuation

Associated Press Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 06:38 Last update: about 3 months ago

Police in Barcelona said a false alarm involving a suspicious van prompted the evacuation of the landmark Sagrada Familia basilica and its surroundings Tuesday evening.

A spokesman with the Mossos d'Esquadra regional police said the sight of two occupants in the van near the church had raised the alarm of a possible extremist threat, but a bomb squad that searched the vehicle didn't find any explosives.

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The spokesman declined to be identified by name, following the force's protocol.

Barcelona, a tourism hub in northeast Spain's Catalonia region, and a nearby coastal town were targets of extremist attacks that killed 16 people last month.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the van attack in Barcelona's Las Ramblas district and the vehicle and knife attack in the coastal town of Cambrils.

In addition, eight members of an extremist cell died or were shot dead by police and two more jailed under preliminary charges of terrorism.

One of the survivors told the judge a judge that the cell's initial plan was to strike monuments and churches in Barcelona.

Spain has kept its anti-terrorism security warning one level below the maximum since mid-2015.

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