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Terrorists demonstrated 'contempt for humanity'

Jefferson Chase
August 17, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has issued a message of defiance after Thursday's terrorist attacks in and around Barcelona, which killed 14 people and injured hundreds. Many international leaders offered condolences.

Deutschland Merkel Statement zum Barcelona Anschlag
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Angela Merkel appeared as scheduled at a conservative party election campaign event in Berlin on Friday. But with the news of the attacks in and around Barcelona still fresh in everyone's minds, she briefly offered her condolences and thoughts.

"These murderous attacks have once again demonstrated the contempt for humanity with which the Islamist terrorists proceed," Merkel said. "We also felt in those hours how closely connected Germans, Spanish and free people around the world are."

Click here to read about the events as they happened

Merkel said that Germans were united in their sorrow at what had happened to people, many of whom were on vacation, as they enjoyed a summer evening. Thirteen Germans were among those injured in the attacks, some of them seriously. Germany suffered a very similar attack lack December when a terrorist drove a truck through a crowded Christmas market.

 But the chancellor also offered a defiant message.

"We will not allow these murderers to deprive us of our way of life," Merkel said. "Barcelona in particular represents so much of what makes life in the free world what it is: beauty, tolerance, joie de vivre and people from all nations and cultures coming together in peace. Terrorism can inflict bitter and sad hours upon us. But terrorism can never defeat us."

On Friday afternoon, the German Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was on his way to Barcelona.

The campaign goes on – but without music

The terrorist attacks happened as German politicians are wooing voters ahead of a national election on September 24. Merkel said that she had considered canceling the conservative CDU's campaign events out of respect for the victims, but had decided against it.

"I came to the conclusion that elections and the weeks leading up to them are a celebration of democracy and a celebration of our liberty," Merkel said. "The terrorists don't understand that, but we know that our strength is freedom and respect for the rights of the individual."

Merkel said that she had consulted with the leaders of the other political parties, including her main rival Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats (SPD), about the best response to the terrorist attacks in Spain. She added that all of Germany's political leaders would tone down campaign events on Friday and Saturday. No music will be used, and moments of silence will commemorate the terrorism victims.

In a separate statement, Schulz said the campaign limitations were "a sign of solidarity with the victims in Spain.

At Spain's embassy in Berlin, the Spanish and EU flags were flying at half-mast, but in the morning, at least, there were no flowers, candles or messages from the public at large.

'Democracy will break barbarism'

Spanien Madrid - Premierminister Mariano Rajoy bei Pressekonferenz
Spain's prime minister said his country was 'united'Image: Getty Images/AFP/P.-P. Marcou

After participating in a crisis meeting with other members of the Catalonian regional government, the region's president Carles Puigdemont said: "Catalonia will rise to the occasion to defend peace and freedom. Democracy will break barbarism."

The region also declared three days of mourning to honor the victims.

After ensuring the public that the government was on top of tending to the injured and securing the area, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that terrorists and barbarism will never defeat a united country that loves liberty. "All of Spain is with the victims and families."

Spain's royal family also condemned the attacks via Twitter, calling the perpetrators assassins and criminals. "All of Spain is Barcelona. Las Ramblas will once more be for everyone."

The Islamic Commission of Spain (UCIDE) also expressed its "emphatic condemnation and repulsion" in relation to the Barcelona attack and reiterated its full commitment to "fight against all forms of terrorism."

The commission said it "hopes that those responsible for these attacks can be detained and brought to justice as soon as possible."

Sympathy from beyond Spain's borders

French President Emmanuel Macron said his thoughts and the solidarity of his country were with victims of the tragic attack. "We remain united and determined," he said. In a Spanish-language tweet issued later, he reiterated solidarity and said, "We are at your side."

Spain's northern neighbor has faced a number of terror attacks in the past years, including the 2016 Bastille Day attack in Nice when a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating on a broad, beachside promenade killing 86 people.

US President Donald Trump also condemned the attack and extended an offer of help to Spain.

But he drew heavy criticism for another incendiary and historically inaccurate Tweet in which he wrote that US General John J. Pershing should serve as a model for dealing with Islamist terrorists. Trump has in the past claimed that Pershing shot Muslim prisoners with bullets dipped in pig's blood, but that claim has no basis in fact.