Spain Investigates 'Connected' Terror Attacks
A manhunt is underway in Spain after two terrorist vehicular attacks on pedestrians in the country's Catalonia region killed at least 13 people and injured more than 100 others.
The van driver escaped on foot and is still being sought. Police arrested two people Thursday — a Moroccan and a Spaniard — but it was not immediately clear how they are connected with the attack. A third person was arrested Friday in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll, Catalonia Interior Minister Joaquim Forn said.
In a similar attack hours later in Cambrils, a resort south of Barcelona, an automobile careened into pedestrians and a police vehicle. Police killed the five attackers, who they said also carried explosive belts, which were later found to be fake. Six civilians and a police officer were injured in the Cambrils attack.
Forn said Friday the Cambrils attack "follows the same trail" as the attack in Barcelona, he added, "There is a connection," without giving further details.
Police believe the attacks are also connected to an explosion in a house in Catalonia Wednesday that killed one person. Authorities suspect the people in the house were building an explosive device to be used in a terrorist attack.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deadly Barcelona rampage.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday 26 French citizens were among those injured in Barcelona. He said 11 are in serious condition. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, however, said in a radio interview that "the number of those who have been seriously injured may perhaps be even higher at around 17."
Le Drian said in a statement that he will be in Barcelona Friday "to visit the French victims of this cowardly act and affirm France's support to the Spanish people and authorities."
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the van attack "jihadist terrorism."
"Today, the fight against terrorism is the principal priority for free and open societies like ours. It is a global threat and the response has to be global," Rajoy told reporters.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter the U.S. "will do whatever is necessary to help" Spain, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned, “Terrorists around the world should know, the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice."
Former U.S. President Barack Obama tweeted that " Americans will always stand with our Spanish friends."
Tech Firms Bar Extremist Groups
For some white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, operating online has become much harder in the wake of last week's "Unite the Right" protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in violent clashes between extremist groups and counterprotesters.
They are being booted off or locked out of their websites. Some can no longer blog. Their electronic payment systems are being canceled. Even their music can’t be heard.
On Thursday, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi and white supremacist news site and one of the organizers of last weekend’s demonstrations, was reportedly ejected from a Russian internet domain provider that was hosting its site. Its removal came at the request of Russia's internet watchdog, according to the French news agency.
The Daily Stormer had recently turned to the Russian firm after being knocked offline by its U.S. providers, first GoDaddy and then Google. As of Thursday night, the Daily Stormer was not online.
That laissez-faire approach appeared to be changing after last weekend’s demonstrations prompted by the rally's violence and the recognition that extremist groups rely on a host of digital services to organize. But the shift comes with great ambivalence.
CloudFlare, which makes websites secure and fast, decided to stop serving the Daily Stormer. But it wasn’t an easy decision, wrote Matthew Prince, the firm’s chief executive. “Someone on our team asked after I announced we were going to terminate the Daily Stormer: ‘Is this the day the internet dies?’”
On Thursday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit that advocates for civil liberties in the digital world and one that has stood with tech companies in its battles with the U.S. government on surveillance, criticized the tech companies’ actions.
“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google and Cloudflare did here was dangerous,” the organization wrote in a statement on its blog.
Tech companies, with few competitors, increasingly have more power to control online speech, EFF wrote, and “the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world."
While Google, GoDaddy and Cloudflare refused to host the Daily Stormer site, other extremist groups and supporters were affected in other ways, such as where they could stay, how they exchanged money and the music they listened to.
Ahead of the protests, Airbnb banned users from staying in Charlottesville if it appeared they were coming for the protests.
PayPal said it does not allow groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazi groups engaged in “activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance” to use its service for processing payments. Apple Pay also pulled its services for groups selling far-right merchandise.
Spotify removed “hate bands” from its service.