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Terrorist Cell Responsible For Vehicle Attacks In Spain Originally Planned A Series Of Bombings

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In Spain, 14 people are dead and more than 120 injured between the van attack yesterday in Barcelona and a second attack in a seaside resort town this morning. Those killed and injured came from dozens of different countries. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at least one American was among them.

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REX TILLERSON: I want to acknowledge that we have now received word and confirmed the death of one American citizen in the terrorist attacks in Spain amongst those who have been killed. We're still confirming the injuries and deaths of others. But obviously we express our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of this individual and obviously the others who have been - who have suffered loss of life.

MCEVERS: While people paid their respects to the victims today, local police continued to search for the remaining members of the terrorist gang behind the attack. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports the police say they already have a good idea of how the attacks unfolded.

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JOSEP LLUIS TRAPERO: (Speaking Catalan).

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Catalan Police Chief Josep Lluis Trapero told reporters that investigators believe the Barcelona attack was being planned for weeks or longer and that the original intent was to use explosives. The attackers' plans were disrupted on Wednesday night when the house they used as their base blew up. So they switched gears, Trapero said, running down pedestrians in Barcelona and another group attacking civilians at a seaside resort town 60 miles away. Police shot those suspects dead early this morning.

Hours later, residents, tourists and dignitaries, including the Spanish king and prime minister, joined together to mark a minute of silence for the victims.

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NELSON: But the crowd wanted to send a strong message to the terrorists and launched into defiant chants of, I'm not afraid in Catalan.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting in Catalan).

NELSON: Thousands flooded the popular Las Ramblas promenade, which was still closed off to traffic after yesterday's fatal van attack. Terrorists weren't the only target of the marchers, who were adamant the gathering not be hijacked by politics, especially over Catalonia's upcoming vote of independence from Spain.

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NELSON: The crowd heckled people displaying Spanish or Catalan flags, and police escorted at least one flag waver away to applause. One of those clapping was Anna Pages.

ANNA PAGES: Because today is for the victims and for saying no to the terrorists, but not for the flags. We already have one day for saying if we are Spanish or Catalan. But it's not today.

NELSON: The crowd also insisted on unity.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Chanting in Catalan).

NELSON: A dozen people heckled an elderly man after he berated a Muslim woman in a headscarf for being at the march. Colombian Nicolas Llanes predicted it wouldn't last. He was back at work at a fast food joint less than a day after seeing the many wounded and dead outside the restaurant.

NICOLAS LLANES: (Speaking Spanish).

NELSON: He said a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment is inevitable following such terror attacks. It doesn't help that the investigation is focused on suspects who are Moroccan or of Moroccan descent and who ISIS claimed were soldiers answering its call.

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PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).

NELSON: At a news conference, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declared such terrorism to be Europe's main problem and said it had to be met with a global fight. Police here have arrested three Moroccans and one Spaniard so far in connection with the attacks, and a court has issued an order for the arrest of four more suspects. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Barcelona.

(SOUNDBITE OF MANU DELAGO'S "BIGGER THAN HOME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.