An attacker killed at least 13 people and injured dozens more in Barcelona on Thursday using what has become a hallmark of recent terror attacks: a vehicle.
Local police say a rented van jumped the curb and plowed into pedestrians in the city’s famous Las Ramblas tourist area, and two people, one from Morocco, the other a Spanish national, are in custody in connection with the attack. Authorities say neither of them was the driver of the vehicle.
Asked if the driver remains on the loose, a Catalonia police official replied, “That is right. He is neither of the two detained.”
For more than a year, ISIS has urged its followers to carry out such vehicle attacks, even providing specific instructions on choosing the ideal vehicle and the ideal targets, including large outdoor festivals and pedestrian-congested streets.
According to John Cohen, the former principal deputy coordinator for counterterrorism at the Department of Homeland Security an an ABC News contributor, attacks on so-called “soft targets” are difficult to prevent and relatively easy to carry out.
“ISIS promotes these types of attacks because they’re easy,” Cohen told ABC News. “You can take people who have received no training, who are using items that are easy to acquire. And they can still commit mass murder.”
Thursday’s attack is the just the latest in a string of deadly incidents throughout Europe in which terrorists have drawn from that playbook, using vehicles to inflict casualties.
In August of last year, 86 people were killed on by a speeding truck driven by an ISIS follower in Nice, France. In December, 12 people killed in a vehicle attack on the Christmas markets in Berlin. And 14 people were killed in two separate incidents in London this year, one on the Westminster Bridge and the other on the London Bridge.
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, ISIS took responsibility for the Barcelona attack, calling those involved “soldiers of the Islamic state” in a statement released by its ‘Amaq News Agency
“Security source for ‘Amaq Agency: The executors of the Barcelona attack were from the soldiers of the Islamic State, and the operation came in response to calls to target coalition states,” the message reads.
U.S.-backed fighters have recently driven ISIS militants from their strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul. As ISIS continues to struggle on the battlefield, Cohen says, the group could increasingly turn to these kinds of attacks.