Mastermind of 2017 Barcelona attacks still on the run: report

Police and medical staff stand in the entrance of a mall after a deadly attack when a van ploughed into the crowd on Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona on August 17, 2017

The suspected mastermind of last year's jihadist attacks in Barcelona and a nearby seaside resort is still on the run in Europe, a Spanish newspaper reported Thursday.

Investigation sources told Barcelona-based daily El Periodico that "the terrorist has been localised, he changes country regularly" and "remains in contact with other (radical) groups".

Previously a Moroccan iman, Abdelbaki Es Satty, believed to have radicalised many of the youths who carried out the twin attacks in August 2017, was presented by the authorities as the man who dreamt up and planned the attacks.

But the paper said now security forces believe the iman "was the link with the intellectual author of the attacks, who was 'in a city in the centre of Europe' at the time."

The sources did not give the nationality or the age of the suspected mastermind of the attacks, and did not say if he had lived at any point in Spain.

Contacted by AFP, a spokeswoman for the regional Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, refused to comment on the El Periodico report, saying "everything concerning the investigation into the international connections" of the jihadist cell that carried out the attacks was confidential.

The iman was killed during an accidental explosion a day before the attacks at a house in Alcanar, a town located some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Barcelona, where the group was making bombs.

A total of 16 people were killed when a van drove into crowds on the popular Las Ramblas boulevard in the heart of Barcelona and in a knife attack in the nearby resort of Cambrils.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The six youths of Moroccan origin, aged 17 to 24, who carried out the attacks were all killed by police.

It was the deadliest jihadist strike in Spain since March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people.

Police and medical staff stand in the entrance of a mall after a deadly attack when a van ploughed into the crowd on Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona on August 17, 2017.