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Belgium car terror: Attempt to ram shoppers in Antwerp foiled by police

A man has been arrested in Belgium after he tried to drive his car into crowds on the busiest shopping street in Antwerp, a day after a terrorist ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four and injuring 40.

The driver was a 39-year-old French national of Tunisian descent and was in possession of a rifle, bladed weapons and a can filled with an unknown substance, according to the Belgian prosecutor.

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He was wearing camouflaged clothing and driving a car with a French licence plate. He was stopped by military police as he drove through a red light at high speed, in the direction of the city’s busiest shopping street, De Meir at 10.45am (9.45am GMT).

“At about 11 am this morning a vehicle entered De Meir at high speed due to which pedestrians had to jump away,” a police spokesperson said.

Don’t miss: Belgium car terror: Attempt to ram shoppers in Antwerp foiled by police

Additional military personnel were deployed to the city centre following the incident, he added.

Antwerp mayor Bart de Wever is due to hold a press conference this afternoon. He said he is grateful for the swift response of Belgian police. “We have managed to prevent an attack because of them,” he said.

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Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel wrote on Twitter: “We are remaining vigilant. Our police force carried out excellent work in Antwerp - thank you! Belgium government is monitoring the situation.”

French President Francois Hollande said that the incident appeared to involve “a French national with possibly a certain number of weapons in his boot – it’s up to the judges to make a statement on that – who was looking to kill or at the very least create a dramatic incident. Therefore we must continue to be on high alert and mobilise all our forces.”

The incident happened a day after Belgium marked the first anniversary of the bomb attacks at a metro station and airport in Brussels that killed 32 people.

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Attempted Antwerp attack: Shotgun and bladed weapons found in man's car who tried to drive into shopping district

A shotgun and several bladed weapons have been found in the car of a man who tried to drive at high speed through a busy shopping street in Antwerp, forcing pedestrians to jump out of the way.

The federal prosecutor’s office said the car was intercepted at the port docks and police arrested a man, identified as 39-year-old Mohamed R, who has been living in France.

Soldiers in the busy shopping street were immediately involved in trying to control and stop the car, which was moving away at high speed.

In the car, authorities said they found knives, a shotgun and a gas can with an unknown liquid.

​The bomb squad was brought in and the authorities raised security in the centre of town, in places where people normally gather.

The office said “because of these elements, and the events in London yesterday, the case is being taken on by the federal prosecutor’s office,” which usually deals with extremist attacks.

A spokesperson for Antwerp Police told The Independent: “Police intercepted the car at around 11am this morning.

“There were no injuries and one man was arrested. The incident is under investigation.”

Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters said the driver of the car was detained once it was stopped. No further information could be given.

Prime minister Charles Michel said: “We remain vigilant. Our security services have done excellent work.”

French President Francois Hollande said a French national appeared to have been involved in the suspected attack.

“It seemed to involve a French national, with possibly a certain number of weapons in his boot — it’s up to the judges to make a statement on that — who was looking to kill or at the very least create a dramatic incident,” Mr Hollande said.

“Therefore we must continue to be on high alert and mobilise all our forces,” he added.

The events happened on the day after the nation held remembrance services for the Brussels attacks, which killed 32 people last year.

Belgium has been living under the second highest anti-terror alarm ever since.

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Walnut and stone feature throughout this penthouse apartment by Belgian practice Hans Verstuyft Architects located in a David Chipperfield-designed building in Antwerp. The residential building, one of Chipperfield’s Westkaai Towers on the waterfront in the neighbourhood of Eilandje, is made up of stacked white concrete terraces. Photos: Dorothee Dubois.