Judge frees Barcelona terror suspect as three remain behind bars

One suspect told the court a bigger attack was planned

Judge frees Barcelona terror suspect as three remain behind bars

People stand next to candles and flowers placed on the ground after a terror attack left 15 people dead in Barcelona, 21-08-2017. Image: AP Photo/Santi Palacios

Updated: 21.35

One of the surviving suspects of last week's terror attacks in Spain has told a court that a bigger atrocity was planned.

According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Mohamed Houli Chemlal revealed the cell was planning to strike some of Barcelona's best-known monuments - including the Sagrada Familia church.

The 21-year-old was among four men who appeared at Madrid's National Court to testify for the first time about the plot.

According to public broadcaster RTVE, a Spanish judge made these rulings after the hearing:

  • Two of the suspects - Chemlal and Driss Oukabir - have been charged with murder, membership of a terror organisation and the possession of explosives. They are being held in prison without bail
  • A third suspect, Salah el Karib, will be detained for another 72 hours while he is investigated further
  • The fourth, Mohammed Aalla, has been released on bail because the evidence against him is weak

Four alleged members of a terror cell accused of killing 15 people in attacks in Barcelona | Image: AP Photo

Chemlal was arrested after being injured in an explosion at a house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, a day before a van drove into pedestrians on the crowded Las Ramblas boulevard.

Officials believe bombs were being prepared at that property for "one or more attacks in Barcelona" - and the explosion killed an imam who is thought to have radicalised the other suspects.

Two of the suspects in court said the Imam, Abdelbaki es Satty, was the instigator of the plot - and it has been claimed he was planning a suicide attack in the city.

A Spanish judge has said a plane ticket to Brussels which belonged to es Satty was found in the house flattened by the explosion - as well as an Islamic State document.

Police said 120 gas canisters and traces of explosive TATP were found at the Alcanar house.

The suspects who appeared in court are believed to be the only surviving members of a 12-man terror cell.

Oukabir was also questioned during the hearing. Although he told prosecutors he had rented the van used in the Las Ramblas attack, he said he believed it was going to used for a house move.

Chemlal has confessed to his participation in the Islamist cell behind the attack, but the other three had said they were innocent.

Fifteen people were killed and 120 others wounded in last week's attacks, including two Irish citizens.

Younes Abouyaaquob, who is suspected of driving the van through crowds of tourists on Las Ramblas, was shot dead by police on Monday.