People walk between booths at the christmas market near the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin on December 22, 2016.
The Berlin Christmas market that was struck by a deadly truck rampage on December 19, 2016 reopened, as the grieving city sought a return to normal life and police hunted for the prime suspect in the attack. / AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ
People walk between booths at the christmas market near the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin on December 22, 2016. The Berlin Christmas market that was struck by a deadly truck rampage on December 19, 2016 reopened, as the grieving city sought a return to normal life and police hunted for the prime suspect in the attack. / AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ

Barcelona: Barcelona was on alert on Monday after the US State Department warned of the risk of a terrorist attack in Spain’s second-largest city during the Christmas holidays. “Exercise heightened caution around areas of veh­icle movement, including bu­s­es, in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona during Ch­r­i­s­t­mas and New Year’s. Terrorists may attack with li­ttle or no warning, targeting tou­rist locations, transportation hubs, and other pu­blic areas,” the State Dep­a­rtment’s Bureau of Consular Affairs tweeted on Sunday.

About the warning during an interview with Rac1 radio on Monday, Catalonia’s regional interior minister Miq­uel Buch said police “were working on this threat”. “We take seriously all threats, all of them are investigated,” he added, without giving further details. Top-selling Spanish newspaper El Pais, citing anonymous police sources, said the authorities were looking for a 30-year-old Moroccan man with a licence to drive buses. Barcelona-based daily El Periodico de Catalunya said Catalan regional police had circulated an internal note the man could try to drive a bus into crowds in Barcelona.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the regional police force in Catalonia did not confirm police were seeking a Moroccan man but said a “temporary reinforcement of security measures in areas of high concentration of people” was in place. Spain has kept terror alert unchanged at the second-highest level despite the US warning, though security steps were boosted in December for the Christmas period, a Spanish interior ministry said. On August 17, 2017, a van rammed into crowds on Barcelona’s tree-lined Las Ramblas boulevard, killing 14 people.

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