Spain ‘suspects planned bigger attack’

Policemen stand next to an injured person lying on the pavement in the Finnish city of Turku where eight people were stabbed on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 19 August 2017
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Spain ‘suspects planned bigger attack’

BARCELONA: Suspects in Spain’s twin terror attacks had been planning for an even bigger assault than the deadly car rampages they carried out, police said on Friday, as distressing details emerged of families torn apart by the double tragedy.
As the world was coming to terms with the Barcelona horror, reports of stabbing attacks came from Finland and Germany on Friday.
In Barcelona, a 35-year-old Italian man was among 14 killed in the attacks, mowed down in front of his wife and young children Thursday when a driver rammed his van through crowds on the busy Las Ramblas boulevard, before fleeing on foot.
Police said they shot dead five “suspected terrorists” who had knocked pedestrians down in the Catalan seaside resort of Cambrils in a second attack in the early hours of Friday and arrested four others.
Details of the investigation were still sketchy, but police said the Barcelona suspect driver may have been among the five killed.
And according to the daily La Vanguardia newspaper in Barcelona, officers were still on the hunt for four other suspects thought to be involved with the cell that devised the terror project claimed by Daesh.
Police revealed Friday afternoon that the suspects had apparently been planning something bigger.
“They were preparing one or several attacks in Barcelona, and an explosion in Alcanar stopped this as they no longer had the material they needed to commit attacks of an even bigger scope,” said Josep Lluis Trapero of Catalonia’s police.
He was referring to a blast in a house in the town of Alcanar Wednesday evening, which police said killed one person.
Meanwhile, in the western Finnish city of Turku, a man stabbed eight people killing two of them, before police shot him in the thigh and detained him, police said. Authorities were looking for more potential suspects in the attack.
A suspect — a man whose identity was not known — was being treated in the city’s main hospital but was in police custody. Security was being stepped up across the Nordic country, Interior Minister Paula Risikko told reporters at a news conference.
Finland’s top police chief, Seppo Kolehmainen, said it was too early to link the attack to international terrorism.
Separately, police in western Germany were searching for up to three men who ran away after stabbing one person to death and injuring another.
A spokeswoman for police in Wuppertal, about 20 km east of Duesseldorf, said the incident happened at a store near the city center.
Marion Heedmann said a 31-year-old man was killed and a 25-year-old man was injured in the incident.
Heedmann said the circumstances of the stabbing were still unclear. Local broadcaster WDR reported that a verbal altercation preceded the incident.


Colombia’s new president Ivan Duque is an anti-FARC hard-liner

Updated 2 min 49 sec ago
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Colombia’s new president Ivan Duque is an anti-FARC hard-liner

BOGOTA: Ivan Duque’s election victory in Colombia makes him the youngest president in his country’s modern history, and gives him a strong mandate to overhaul the government’s fragile peace deal with the former rebel group FARC.
He campaigned on a ticket to rewrite the peace deal signed with the FARC by outgoing center-right president Juan Manuel Santos. His vanquished leftist opponent, Gustavo Petro, supports the deal.
A lawyer with a degree in economics, Duque represents many Colombian voters who were outraged by concessions given to the former rebels, including reduced sentences for those who confessed to their crimes.
He has vowed to make “structural changes” to the 2016 agreement, which led to the group’s disarmament and conversion into a political party.
“What we Colombians want is that those who have committed crimes against humanity be punished by proportional penalties... so that there is no impunity,” Duque told AFP during the campaign.
He will succeed Santos on August 7, a few days after his 42nd birthday.
Latin America’s longest-running conflict left more than 260,000 people dead, nearly 83,000 missing and some 7.4 million forced from their homes.

Duque has railed against the Colombian left, voicing fears that it would drag the country into the same economic quagmire in which neighboring Venezuela is mired.
The left in turn accuses him of being a puppet of Alvaro Uribe, the former two-term president who took a hard line against the left when he was last in power eight years ago.
“Nobody knows if he has his own criteria or if he will obey orders,” Fabian Acuna, a political analyst at Cali’s Javeriana University, said of Duque.
Although a newcomer to politics — he has been a senator since 2014 — politics is in his blood.
Born in Bogota on August 1, 1976, his father was a liberal politician.
But it was Santos, the outgoing president, who took Duque under his wing in the 1990s as a financial adviser. Later, he worked for 13 years for the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank.
Today, Duque finds himself in opposition to Santos over the peace deal.
“He is very dynamic when it comes to public relations, very clever,” said a former co-worker at the IDB.
While working in the United States, Duque met Uribe, who persuaded him to run for the Senate.
“Ivan is very intelligent and I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him,” wrote Uribe in his 2012 book “No Lost Causes.”
But for Roy Barreras, a senator from Santos’s party, “a president must have experience, autonomy, political capacity — all missing with Ivan, who is, as everyone admits, a good little guy.”
A father of three, Duque used to play bass in a rock band, but his relaxed image contrasts sharply with his conservative ideals — he is a staunch opponent of gay marriage, euthanasia and the decriminalization of drugs.
He has strong support from the far-right as well as an increasingly influential evangelical Christian bloc.