The perpetrators of last year's terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils didn't just hire vehicles to use directly in their attack, they also wanted them to transport explosives. This information comes from court documents that Catalan public broadcaster TV3 has seen. According to investigators from the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police, the terrorists wanted to get 4x4s for their attack.
The vehicles were to be acquired by Youssef Aalla the day before the attacks, 16th August, but earlier that day he had died in the explosion of a house in Alcanar. Apart from that, there is also an apparent level of improvisation in the preparation of the attack, since the terrorists didn't know what documentation they would need to hire the vehicles, nor that they would need to buy the products they wanted to make explosives with.
The documents also reveal that the group behind the attacks had asked around friends and family to hire the vehicles for them.
How did they try to make their explosives?
According to the documents, the terrorists not only wanted to use butane cylinders to make explosives, but also planned to used hydrogen peroxide. The terrorists reportedly tried to buy 340 litres of it from a shop in Tortosa the month before the attack. The purchases were all made with cash and without receipts.
As cover, they said they wanted the hydrogen peroxide to bleach clothes in a laundry they owned in Morroco.
One witness has also said they remember seeing freezers in the vans hired by the terrorists. According to the Mossos, their presence suggests they wanted to make an explosive called TATP, sometimes known as "Mother of Satan", which has to be kept cold. Another report suggests they were making it in Ripoll too.
According to another witness, the perpetrators of the attacks used the word "terrorists" to describe themselves. The woman in question and her children say that a group of young men walked up to them on the beach on 16th August and said, in English and French, that they were terrorists.
Two of the group of six have been identified: one was Younes Abouyaaqoub, who drove the van in the attack on the Rambla, killing 13, and who killed Pau Pérez to steal his car during his escape.
Where was Younes the morning of the attacks?
On the morning of 17th August, Younes was in Ripoll with Mohammed Hichamy, one of those behind the attack in Cambrils. A witness saw them leave the town in a rental van. They then headed to Barcelona.
The investigation puts Abouyaaqoub in Ripoll, Cambrils and Sant Carles de la Ràpita the three days before the attack. They suggest he tried to rob something, still unknown, from a shop, and bought switches, lightbulbs and other electrical items which, according to the Mossos, can be used to make bombs, like the fuses found in Alcanar after the explosion.
Younes Abouyaaqoub's brother, Hicham, was the one who raised the Mossos' suspicions about the possibility of there being a terror cell in Catalonia. According to the court documents, the Mossos warned a National Audience court judge, Fernando Andreu, about suspicious movements by Hicham and two friends, buying three police costumes in a shop in Vic, where they were also seen trying them on with "fake bulletproof jackets".
Agents followed the movements of the younger Abouyaaqoub over the following days, coinciding with Carnaval celebrations. The police concluded that they hadn't committed any crime, nor were they preparing an attack, but they remained suspicious. Not knowing why they'd bought the costumes, they decided to inform the judge.