A French national has been arrested in the norther Belgian city of Antwerp after he allegedly tried to drive a car through the town’s pedestrianised city centre at high speed.

The federal prosecutor’s office identified the driver as 39-year old Mohamed R, who lives in France. Antwerp’s police chief said the man was of North African origin. The federal prosecutor said various weapons were found in the car’s boot, including knives, a riot gun and a container with an unknown substance inside.

Antwerp authorities handed responsibility for the case to the federal government because of Wednesday’s attack in London, where a man driving a 4×4 killed three and injured more than 40 after driving through a crowd on Westminster bridge.

“On the basis of the initial information gathered, and taking into account what happened yesterday in London, it was decided to entrust the file to the federal prosecutor’s office,” the prosecutor said. Belgium’s federal government handles terrorism cases.

Antwerp’s mayor, Bart De Wever, took to Twitter to state his “gratitude on behalf of all Antwerp to the soldiers that have intervened, the police services and the rapid response team.”

Public broadcaster RTBF reported that the car tried to get into the pedestrian area, known as Le Meir, at around 11am local time this morning. Le Soir newspaper said that a chase ensued with police before the car was stopped by the military.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michael said on Twitter that the situation was being monitored closely. “We continue to be vigilant. Our security forces did an excellent job in Antwerp,” he wrote.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
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