Briton ignored police warnings to flee as he comforted child in Barcelona

Updated: 

SPAIN-SECURITY/

A British tourist said he raced to help a child in the Barcelona terror attack despite police shouting warnings that he should move to safety.

Harry Athwal, of Birmingham, said a fatherly instinct kicked in as he comforted the helpless boy who was lying on the ground with no pulse in the Las Ramblas tourist boulevard.

It was soon after a van had slammed into innocent passers-by.

The scene was "strewn" with bodies but Mr Athwal said he was determined not to leave the infant who was about the same age as his son, telling BBC News: "I put my hand on his back.

"He was facing face-down and because of the nature of the injuries I did not want to move him.

"I put my hand on his back and he was not breathing."

Fearing another attack in the same street, a police officer shouted at him to leave.

Mr Athwal told BBC News: "I thought 'I am not going to move. I am not going to leave because I am not going to leave this child'.

"I had it in my mind that if I see another car or van coming down I am going to pick this child up and I am going to move him.

"I am not going to let these cowards come back and run over him, not a chance in hell."

He stroked the boy's thick brown hair, which was like his son's, and said a silent prayer for God to please help him.

Mr Athwal rejected any suggestion he is a hero saying, in light of recent attacks, "now we have to stand and be counted".

The Barcelona attack left 13 dead and more than 100 injured.

A driver whose car was commandeered shortly afterwards was stabbed, according to reports.

A person was also killed in car attack in the nearby town of Cambrils.

The cell behind the attack had planned to use explosives to strike at monuments, a suspect has told a Madrid court.

Houli Chemlal told a judge attackers were preparing bombs for an imam believed to be the leader of the cell to strike monuments in Barcelona, according to a source with Spain's judiciary.

Chemlal's evidence is considered key to understanding the thinking of the 12-man cell as he is the lone survivor of a blast last week that destroyed a house in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, where police believe the cell was preparing explosives for an even bigger attack on the city.

Over 100 tanks of butane gas and materials to make TATP explosive were found at the house, police say.

He is one of four surviving suspects who gave evidence.

Driss Oukabir, Mohammed Aalla and Said el Karib were arrested in the northeastern town of Ripoll and Chemlal in Alcanar for their alleged involvement in planning or carrying out two vehicle attacks on pedestrians.