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‘I prefer him in prison or dead:’ Mother of Barcelona attack suspect calls on him to surrender

The mother of Younes Abouyaaqoub, the man suspected of mowing down pedestrians in a van attack in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas tourist hotspot, killing 14 people and injuring 120, has called on her son to surrender to police.

"I would like him to return, to stop what he has been doing. I’m not responsible for all that. I want him to surrender to police. I prefer him to be in prison or even dead rather than killing other people," the woman told reporters in Catalonia. 

The 22-year-old Moroccan is being hunted by police, and may have fled north into France. Abouyaaqoub is the only person unaccounted for in the investigation into an extremist cell of 12 people identified by Spanish police, force spokesman Albert Oliva told a local radio station on Sunday.

Catalan police have put up scores of roadblocks across the province in a manhunt for Abouyaaqoub, but the suspect has so far eluded law enforcement.

On Monday, police released photos of Abouyaaqoub, who is thought to have plowed the van into crowds in Barcelona last Thursday.

Abouyaaqoub fled the scene on foot before later stabbing a man to death and taking his car to escape, police in Catalonia said on Friday, Reuters reports. 

Thirteen people died in the van rampage on Las Ramblas. Hours later, another woman was killed in the seaside resort Cambrils in a separate attack by suspected Islamist militants.

The combined death toll from the attacks stands at 15, including the Spanish man stabbed in his car as he was parking.

According to Catalan police, Abouyaaqoub is dangerous and possibly armed.

“The driver of the van is dangerous and may be armed. Wanted for his role in the attack in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, which occurred on August 17,” Catalan law enforcement agency Mossos d'Esquadra tweeted on Monday.

All European police forces are now searching for Abouyaaqoub, the Catalan regional government said on Monday.

"This person is no longer just being sought in Catalonia but in all European countries, this is an effort by European police," Joaquim Forn, the Catalan interior minister, told Catalan radio.

The official confirmed that police were almost 100 percent certain Abouyaaqoub was the driver in the attack.

"Everything points to that," Forn added, as cited by Reuters.

Police say the chances are the suspect may have crossed “some border” into neighboring countries.

"We have no evidence that he crossed the border, we think it would not have been easy, but we cannot rule out that he didn't cross any border," Josep Lluis Trapero, head of the regional police in Catalonia, told a news conference on Monday. He added that the search for the suspect is currently the top priority.