Four terrorism suspects appear in court

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, Mohamed Aalla, Driss Oukabir and Salh El Karib.
Mohamed Houli Chemlal, Mohamed Aalla, Driss Oukabir and Salh El Karib. / EFE
  • One of the four men arrested following last week's events in Catalonia has told a judge that the group had been planning one or more bigger attacks for the last six months

The four surviving suspected terrorists arrested following last week's attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, Salh El Karib, Driss Oukabir, Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Mohamed Aalla, appeared in court on Tuesday.

Driss Oukabir, told judge Fernando Andreu and prosecutors that he rented the vans used in the attacks as instructed by members of the terrorist cell who said they were for "removals", said judicial sources.

The 26-year-old Oukabir, who lived in Ripoll (Gerona), where the young members of the cell were apparently drawn into terrorism by a local imam, was arrested close to his local police station on the day of the attacks. He had reported the theft of his ID documents, which were found inside the van used to kill 13 pedestrians in Las Ramblas. He later said that he had reported the theft "out of fear".

Oukabir, who was remanded in custody without bail, has denied links with the terrorist cell that his 17-year-old brother Moussa had belonged to.

Moussa was one of the five terrorists who were shot dead by police when they attempted to run over pedestrians in Cambrils (Tarragona) late last Thursday night.

Explosion survivor

Another of the four suspects questioned by the judge on Tuesday and sent to jail without bail was Mohamed Houli Chemlal. Houli, 21, was injured in the explosion on Wednesday last week - the day before the Barcelona attacks - in a house occupied by squatters in the town of Alcanar (Tarragona). According to judicial sources the Melilla-born suspect confirmed in court that the house was being used to prepare "one or several bigger attacks" and that this had been going on for "a long time, more than six months", according to police chief Josep Lluís Trapero.

The explosion, caused by the cell's attempts to build bombs in the house using gas cylinders and chemicals, among other materials, apparently cut short plans to cause the biggest chain of Jihadist terror attacks ever seen in Europe. The remains of two bodies were found in the rubble, one of them the imam from Ripoll, allegedly the leader of the cell, Abdelbaki es Satty.

The other two arrested suspects are Mohamed Aalla, the owner of the Audi A3 used in the attack in Cambrils, and Salh El Karib, the owner of a call centre in Ripoll. The judge has postponed his decision regarding El Karib for a maximum of 72 hours until the results of a search of his business are analysed.

Aalla has been granted provisional bail as the judge saw no evidence to warrant his being sent to prison. He has been ordered to report to the court once a week and has had his passport confiscated.

The four suspects are the only surviving alleged members of the terror cell after six others were shot dead during the police operation (five in Cambrils and the driver of the van used in the Barcelona attack, Younes Abouyaaqoub, on Monday) and two died in the explosion in Alcanar.