UK on high alert after new vehicle-as-weapon attack in Spain

Britain has updated its travel advice for its citizens visiting Spain following the terrorist attack in Barcelona that killed 14 people on Thursday.

world Updated: Aug 18, 2017 22:39 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Barcelona attack,Las Ramblas,Islamic State
Flags fly at half mast at the Spanish embassy in London a day after a van in Las Ramblas in Barcelona crashed into pedestrians, killing 14 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. (Reuters)

Scotland Yard said on Friday it remained in a “heightened state of readiness” to deal with terrorism after the vehicle attack in Barcelona resonated in a Britain that witnessed three similar assaults in the past six months.

The Foreign Office has been warning of terror attacks in Spain, but revised its travel advisory following the latest attack that claimed at least 14 lives and injured dozens more, including some British nationals. The terror was brought home by blanket coverage by the British news media.

It is holiday season in Europe, with most tourist attractions – including the popular Las Ramblas area in Barcelona – teeming with tourists. The incident was the latest in a series of attacks in Britain and Europe marked by the use of vehicles as weapons.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “I am sickened by the senseless loss of life in Barcelona…Following the attacks in Manchester and London, Spain stood alongside the British people…Britain stands with Spain against the evil of terrorism.”

Mark Rowley, Scotland Yard’s lead for counter-terrorism policing, said: “In the UK the current threat from international terrorism remains ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely. Activity by police and the security services continues around the clock to disrupt and prevent further attacks in the UK.

“We remain on a heightened state of readiness and are continually reviewing our security arrangements to reflect the threat we are facing…Our network of counter-terrorism police liaison officers posted in locations around the world help us connect investigations internationally.”

Spain not only attracts a large number of British citizens but is also home to thousands of retired Britons and others settled there, using the freedom of movement principle allowed to citizens of member-states of the European Union.

The revised travel advice said: “If you’re in the immediate area you should take care and follow the advice of the local security authorities…If you’re caught up in an ongoing incident, turn any mobile phones or other devices to silent, and do not put your location on social media.

“If you are safe, follow the instructions of the Spanish authorities and notify friends and family via social networks, to avoid using phone lines.”

There have been four terror attacks in Britain this year, three of them using vehicles as weapons - Westminster Bridge (March 22, six killed), London Bridge (June 3, eight killed), and Finsbury Park (June 19, one killed).

On May 22, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the end of a concert in Manchester by popular singer Ariana Grande, attended by hundreds of teenagers and others, killing 23.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 16:46 IST