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Barcelona Attack Won’t Derail Independence Drive

Barcelona Attack Won’t Derail Independence DriveBarcelona Attack Won’t Derail Independence Drive

Catalonia’s leaders said on Friday that a deadly van attack in their capital, Barcelona, would not affect plans to hold an October referendum in the northeastern region on breaking away from the rest of Spain. Thirteen people were killed when a van plowed into crowds in central Barcelona on Thursday afternoon. Another woman died on Friday from injuries she sustained in an attempted attack hours later in the Catalan resort of Cambrils, which police said they thwarted by shooting dead five suspects, Reuters reported.

The attacks come at a time of increasing tension between Madrid and Barcelona before the planned plebiscite on Oct.1, which the central government aims to block through the courts on the grounds that it goes against Spain’s constitution. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonia’s regional leader Carles Puigdemont put on a rare united front on Friday at a joint news conference, after making separate televised addresses the night before.

But signs of the strained relations between the affluent, populous region and Madrid authorities were still apparent.

Asked in a radio interview about an editorial in leading Spanish daily El Pais which called on Catalan parties to “return to reality” after the attacks, Puigdemont said: “Mixing up our priority now, which is to respond to the terrorist threat and attend to victims, with anything seems just vile to me.

“We’re not the only, or the first, city in Europe where there has been a massacre like this.”

Puigdemont said the region’s “roadmap” toward independence would not be derailed by the attacks.

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