24 Mar 2017

Man 'drives at crowd' in Belgium

7:31 am on 24 March 2017

A crowd of people have jumped from the path of a car that sped into a pedestrian street in Antwerp, Belgium.

A police car blocks access to De Meir, Antwerp's main pedestrian street, after a man was arrested after he tried to drive into a crowd of shoppers at high speed on the street, on March 23, 2017, in Antwerp.

A police car blocks access to De Meir, Antwerp's main pedestrian street, after a man drove down it at speed. Photo: AFP

The car sped away from the scene, but Antwerp police later arrested a man suspected of being the driver, naming him as 39-year-old French national Mohamed R, who they said was of North African origin.

Inside the car, they found knives, a riot gun and a canister containing an unknown substance that bomb disposal officers have been checking.

The crowd of people he sped into were uninjured.

Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters said police were contacted after the army spotted the car driving "at high speed" on De Meir, the northern city's main shopping street, and tried to stop it.

"But the driver broke free and drove through the red light towards the port quays."

Police were contacted, he said, and immediately sent a rapid response team, intercepting the vehicle and immediately arresting the driver, he said.

Belgian PM Charles Michel praised the authorities for an "outstanding job".

The attack comes a day after a car was driven at high speed along London's Westminster Bridge, hitting many people, before the driver got out and entered the grounds of Parliament. He was killed after fatally stabbing a police officer there. Two other people died and 40 were injured in the attack.

Belgian federal prosecutors did not give details of any motive but said they had been called in "based on all these elements and the events in London yesterday".

A police spokesperson said security had been stepped up.

It was also a year since the 22 March bombings at Brussels' airport and metro killed 32 people.

- BBC / Reuters

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