People walk by Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 16, 2015.
People walk by Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 16, 2015. (REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo)

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A Catalan government official said on Thursday that 13 people have died and at least 50 have been injured in a van attack in Barcelona's city center.

Joaquim Forn confirmed the death toll on Twitter.

Spain's El Pais newspaper, citing police sources, says perpetrators of van incident in Barcelona holed up in a bar.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Thursday he was in contact with authorities.

Rajoy said on Twitter the priority was to attend to the injured 

Police described the incident on Twitter as a "massive crash." Emergency services said people should not go to the area around the city's Placa Catalunya, and requested the closure of nearby train and metro stations.

El Pais newspaper said the driver of the vehicle had fled on foot after mowing down dozens of people.

While full details of the incident were not immediately clear, since July 2016 vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of militant attacks across Europe, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.

In recent weeks, threatening graffiti against tourists has appeared in Barcelona, which draws at least 11 million visitors a year.

In one video released under the slogan "tourism kills neighborhoods," several hooded individuals stopped a tourist bus in Barcelona, slashed the tires and spray-painted the windscreen.

This story will be updated as more information is received.

© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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