Police in Barcelona, Spain, evacuated the Sagrada Familia cathedral as part of an anti-terrorism operation Tuesday evening, following reports of a suspicious van parked outside the cathedral. It was later confirmed as a false alarm.

The Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, searched bins, instructed people to leave the area and close their businesses, while a bomb squad examined the vehicle.

Image Credit: Express.co.uk
Image Credit: Express.co.uk

The Mossos announced the anti-terror operation via Twitter, and about an hour after it had begun, officials declared the incident as a “false alarm,” and left the premises. Authorities in Barcelona are especially vigilant of any possible terrorist attacks that could be carried in the city, following the tragic terror attack in August that killed 13 people and injured dozens of others.

Mossos d’Esquadra confirm ‘false alarm’ on suspicious van situation

The Mossos d’Esquadra received a tip on Tuesday evening about a suspicious van parked outside the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s distinctive cathedral, which attracts millions of people each year.

Police arrived at the scene and evacuated the cathedral, leaving thousands of churchgoers puzzled and alert. The Mossos also asked shop owners to close down their businesses and cordoned the streets near the famous cathedral – which was designed by Antoni Gaudí and began construction in 1882.

ABC Catalonia reported the police received a warning prompting the evacuation of the cathedral. Meanwhile, a bomb squad arrived at the scene, too, to check out the suspicious van that caused all the chaos, according to RT News.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, one of the suspects of planning the attack on the cathedral. Image Credit AFP / Getty Images
Mohamed Houli Chemlal, one of the suspects of planning the attack on the cathedral. Image Credit AFP / Getty Images

However, an hour after arriving at the scene, the Mossos d’Esquadra confirmed there was no threat of a terrorist attack. Police officials said that there were two people inside the suspicious van, but nobody was arrested, according to RT.

The false alarm came moments before the start of a Champions League’s soccer game between Barcelona and Juventus.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal, a 21-year-old, told a court in August after the Las Ramblas attack that the Islamist terror cell –from which he was part of—had been preparing an attack “or larger dimensions,” and said that the Sagrada Familia was a possible target.

The Sagrada Familia was a potential target of a terrorist attack on August

Barcelona has been alert ever since the terrorist attack in Las Ramblas in August, which involved a van ramming into a crowd and leaving 13 people dead. Later that day, another attack was carried out in the Spanish town of Cambrils, where at least one people was killed after another van rammed into a crowd.

The country has remained on a high terror alert following the tragic attacks. Tuesday’s false alarm on the Sagrada Familia was particularly worrying, as Houli Chemlal, from the Las Ramblas attack told a court in August that the terror cell had planned to use explosives against Barcelona’s major monuments, including the cathedral.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for August’s attacks on Spain. The country has since doubled its efforts to protect its citizens against terrorism.

Source: Telegraph UK