Nestled in the foot-hills of the Pyrenees mountains Ripoll appears to be a small sleepy town where the 1,000 north African immigrant population rub along gently with their Spanish neighbours.
Metal works and textile factories hidden on the outskirts of the historic picturesque town pulled migrant workers from Morocco with the promise of a regular income and a chance to better their impoverished lives.
Beckoning their wives and children to join them the migrant workers set up families, creating a bustling north African community, establishing their own mosque, cafes and shops.
Moussa Oukabir, left, was shot dead by Spanish police in Cambrils on Thursday. He lived in the same apartment complex as Mohamed Hychami, who was also shot dead by police
Oukabir lived in the same apartment complex in Ripoll, northern Spain as Mohamed Hychami
Today the sound of Arabic swirls around the ancient stone streets of Ripoll as women in headscarves discuss their horror at the events in Barcelona and their shock that the killers had lived among them.
One woman said: ‘I cannot believe it. We know these people, these boys. They are normal people, they are not killers. What could have happened to them to make them do this?’
Ripoll Mayor Jordi Munell added: ‘There are only about 11,000 of us and only 9 per cent are immigrants. We practically all know each other.’
Teenager terrorist Moussa Oukabir played football for the local team Clud de Futbol Ripoll.
However is has emerged that the terrorists – many of whom were born and raised in Ripoll had recently become more involved in Islam, reading up on the life of the prophet Mohammed and praying up to five times a day.
The father of Moussa Oukabir has revealed that his 17-year-old son had recently started to pray regularly.
His oldest son Dris Oukabir, who was aged ten when the family joined their father in Spain, is still being questioned by anti-terrorist police.
Said Oukabir told Spanish media: ‘I can’t accept the fact that my sons are main suspects of a terrorist attack.
‘I never noticed any sing of radicalisation in their behaviours. They live just like other boys at their age.
Spanish police are currently hunting Younis Abouyaacoub who is believed to be part of the terror cell which struck on Thursday
‘Mousa was a nice boy. He never hurt anyone. He had been focused on their studies and was willing to pass the baccalaureate exam next year.
‘Recently however he started praying in a regular way. He never missed the time of his prayers.
‘But it was limited to praying, he did not go further. Moussa was young, and not mature yet. I think someone messed with his mind.’
Neighbours of prime fugitive terrorist Younis Abouyaacoub have told of their shock that the smiling 22-year-old was involved with the horrific terrorist outrage.
Mohamed Bernadi said: ‘These [Younis and other terrorists] boys were always good people.
‘It’s a real shame what has happened.
‘The religion [Islam], like other religions, is of peace and merciful.
‘These boys are not this.’
Juan Gallego, 47, said: ‘I had no idea and he didn’t look like someone with this kind of ideology.
‘He dressed normally – a regular guy, sometimes they dressed up for their celebrations. I assumed they were religious.
‘I knew who he was but I didn’t know him personally. They have been living here for years.
‘He was a normal person. You wouldn’t suspect that he could do a thing like this.
‘Everything that’s happened, it’s surprising, it’s strange.
I mean, you don’t expect people like this to be in your own block, especially when they’re good people without a criminal record.’
Another neighbour added: They are like everyone here – totally normal people who are nice to everybody.
Mohamed Bernadi, who lives in the same block of flats, said Abouyaacoub lived with his parents, his four-year-old brother, his ten-year-old brother and his sister who is about five.
He said that Younes had not been seen since Thursday’s attack.
Mr Bernadi added: ‘These boys were always good people.
‘It’s a real shame what has happened. The religion, like other religions, is of peace and merciful. These boys are not this.’
Halima, the wife of Salh el Karib, who was arrested in Ripoll on Friday, has protested his innocence.
She told Spanish media: ‘We are all Muslims and we don’t like these attacks any more than anyone else.’
Other neighbours claim that the van used to callously kill and maim dozens in Las Ramblas had been parked in the street close to Abouyaaqoub’s home the night before the terrorist outrage.
Juan, 45, told MailOnline: ‘The white van that those sons of bitches used to kill people was parked here in the street the night before the attack.
‘It was the same van that was used in Las Ramblas.
‘I recognized the van from the reports on the TV.
‘I saw them pulling stickers off the side of the van.’
Meanwhile anti-terrorist police continued to monitor everyone entering and leaving Ripoll that fugitive Abouyaacoub other terror suspects called home.
Heavily armed officers carried out random searches of vehicles entering the small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains some 65 miles from Barcelona.
THE TERROR CELL: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
Spanish authorities believe the two attacks were the work of a jihadi terror cell of between eight and 12 individuals, which has now been ‘dismantled’, according to the Spanish government.
They were stockpiling canisters of deadly butane gas at an address in Alcanar, 120 miles south of Barcelona, when the house exploded shortly before midnight on Wednesday, killing one and injuring 16.
It has also emerged that forensics experts found acetylene at the bomb factory – a chemical compound favoured by Islamic State bomb-makers. Arrest warrants were issued on Friday for four named individuals, although three of them were later confirmed to be dead.
Suspected terror cell members:
One plotter was killed in an explosion at a home in Alcanar, 120 miles from Barcelona. It is believed plotters were stockpiling deadly butane gas to use in the attack. Another suspect, from the Spanish enclave of Mililla in North Africa, was arrested there
DEAD: Moussa Oukabir – Believed to have rented the truck used in the Las Ramblas attack. He was among the five killed in Cambrils in the early hours of Friday morning. An arrest warrant for him had earlier been issued.
DEAD: Said Aallaa – The 18-year-old was from the village of Ribes de Freser. He is one of four cell members identified by Spanish police, and his death was confirmed on Friday evening. His brother Mohamed has reportedly been arrested, but it is not known if he was one of the plotters.
DEAD: Mohamed Hychami – The 24-year-old lived in Ripoll, the same town as Oukabir.
WANTED: Younes Abouyaaqoub – Another suspect identified by police, the 22-year-old is also from Ripoll. An arrest warrant has been issued for him, and Spanish police confirmed on Friday evening that he is still at large.
WANTED: Two more, as yet unnamed, suspects are wanted by anti-terror police, La Vanguardia reports.
DEAD: Unnamed – Two jihadists were shot dead in Cambrils in the same incident in which Oukabir, Aallaa and Hychami were killed. Neither of them has been identified.
DEAD: Unnamed – One terror cell member died in an explosion in Alcanar on Wednesday, which has been linked to the two attacks. No details about him have been released. Initial reports suggest a second person could also have died in the blast, although this has not been confirmed. Police wrote on Twitter: ‘We work to determine if remains in Alcanar are a second corpse. We are working to determine if biological traces from Alcanar are human.’
ARRESTED: Unnamed – One alleged plotter was taken into custody in Alcanar, where the explosion happened. He is a citizen of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla.
ARRESTED: Two suspects of Moroccan origin. At this stage no further information has been released, but one was pictured being taken into custody in Ripoll.
ARRESTED: Driss Oukabir – The older brother of Moussa, police issued a photo of the 28-year-old in the immediate aftermath of the Barcelona attack, saying he had rented one of the vans connected to the atrocity. He later handed himself in at a police station in Ripoll, claiming Moussa had stolen his ID documents. He denies being part of the terror cell.
Arrested: One of those being questioned by police is Driss Oukabir, whose picture was released in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s atrocity. He later handed himself in to police, claiming his younger brother Moussa had stolen his ID documents in order to rent a van used in the attack