Police close Barcelona city center around Las Ramblas following a terrorist attack
At least 13 people were reported dead and dozens others injured following a terrorist attack in Spanish city of Barcelona on Thursday afternoon, triggering severe condemnation from the European Union (EU) leaders.
"This cowardly attack has deliberately targeted those enjoying life and sharing time with family and friends. We will never be cowed by such barbarism," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.
"I send my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, as well as to Prime Minister Rajoy and the people of Spain. My thoughts are with the people of Barcelona," he said, adding the Commission is "at the full disposal of the authorities for any help or assistance necessary".
Echoing Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted:" All of Europe stands with Barcelona. Our thoughts are with the victims and all affected by this cowardly attack on innocents."
Meanwhile, Spain's deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, will travel to Barcelona on Thursday evening.
Local media reported that Saenz de Santamaria will meet with Enric Millo, the delegate of the Spanish executive in Catalonia, and his team in order to coordinate the tasks.
Millo is attending the crisis meeting being held at the regional government of Catalonia, Generalitat, along with representatives of Barcelona's city council, Generalitat, and central government.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also said he was in "contact with all the administrations". And the priority "is to help the injured and facilitate the work of the security forces".
The attack happened at around 17:00 hours local time when a man drove a white van at high speed onto the city's famous Las Ramblas. At the time of the attack, the area was packed with people, many of them tourists.
Latest reports are that authorities believe the attack was not the work of a "lone wolf" and that it was organized by at least three people. An operation is now under way and the anti-terrorism protocol has been activated.
A huge area including Las Ramblas and the nearby Plaza Catalonia and up to the Gran Via have been cordoned off, while large numbers of police and emergency services are now in the area.
The Generalitat also closed nearby metro and railway stations, while people in the area of the attack were asked to stay where they are until the police can indicate an exit route.
Shortly after the attack, the Spanish Ibex-35 stock exchange Thursday saw nearly a full percentage point knocked off its value and slipped back below the 10,500-point mark on a day when the country's banks suffered important losses.
The Ibex opened at 10,544.30 points after three days of successive gains, but closed the penultimate session of the week at 10,443.80 points, a loss of 0.95 percent on the day's trading.
The news especially hit the banking sector with generalized losses in Spain: The Banco Santander lost 2.50 percent of share values, Bankia, 1.64 percent, BBVA 1.90 percent, Banco Sabadell 1.88 percent, Bankinter 1.80 percent and Caixabank, 1.77 percent.
Over 230 suspected jihadist terrorists have been arrested in Spain since the start of 2015.
According to EU's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report published in June this year, a total of 142 failed, foiled and completed terrorist attacks were reported by eight EU countries in 2016.
It noted that the attacks occurred in eight member states, with more than half reported by Britain. France reported a total of 23 attacks, Italy 17, and Spain ten.