Barack Obama and the former First Lady Michelle have sent a message of support – and a hug – to the people of Barcelona and Spain after a terror attack that killed at least 13 people and injured scores more.
“Michelle and I are thinking of the victims and their families in Barcelona. Americans will always stand with our Spanish friends,” he wrote. Using the Spanish phrase for “a hug”, he added: “Un abrazo.”
The former president posted the message after police in Barcelona were scrambling to respond to an incident in which a white van jumped onto a sidewalk and sped down a pedestrian zone in the city’s Las Ramblas district.
The Associated Press said the vehicle swerved from side to side as it ploughed into tourists and residents. Authorities said 13 people were killed and 80 were wounded, 15 of them seriously, in what they called a terror attack.
The afternoon attack in the northeastern Spanish city was the country’s deadliest since 2004, when Al-Qaeda-inspired bombers killed 192 people in coordinated attacks on Madrid’s commuter trains.
The president of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, provided updated casualty figures. He said that two people had been arrested.
Donald Trump also posted two tweets following the incident. One said: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you.”
In a second tweet Mr Trump suggested people should “study” what World War I General John Pershing did to end “Radical Islamic terror for 35 years”.
Mr Pershing was said to have dissuaded militant Muslims in the Philippines by killing them and burying their bodies with pigs. Another part of his legend – widely debunked – is that he shot them with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood.