Police have confirmed that a French National of North African origin has been arrested and detained after driving at “high speed” and attempting to plow into a large crowd of people in Antwerp, Belgium. Francois Hollande, France’s president, has acknowledged to reporters that it is believed a French National was involved in the events in Antwerp.
“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. Therefore we must continue to be on high alert and mobilize all our forces.”
The 39-year-old suspect, who has been identified by police as Mohamed R., was driving a maroon vehicle with what are believed to be French number plates. The suspect ran straight through a red light and then attempted to drive into a crowd of people nearby who were busy shopping in a pedestrianized Antwerp neighborhood.
— Anouk (@franklyanouk) March 23, 2017
After the terror suspect had been apprehended, police found a shotgun and knives inside the man’s vehicle, as well as a can containing some kind of as yet unknown liquid, as the Metro reported. A statement from prosecutors in Belgium lists different kinds of arms that were “found in the boot – bladed weapons, a riot gun and a container of liquid that is still unidentifiable.”
Police say that after the man was initially unsuccessful at mowing down pedestrians, he kept driving at a high rate of speed and repeatedly tried to hit people that were in the pedestrian streets of Antwerp, Belgium.
The BBC reported that Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters said the car involved in this attack was discovered at around 11 a.m (10:00 GMT).
“The vehicle was driving at high speed on De Meir. Our army colleagues spotted it and tried to bring the vehicle to a halt. But the driver broke free and drove through the red light towards the port quays. The suspect, a man of North African origin, was immediately arrested.”
Another police source explained that the car was stopped and the driver apprehended after hitting a red light.
“The car was stopped as it jumped a red light, and a safety perimeter established around it immediately. Soldiers on patrol searched it, and it was found to contain weapons, and other illegal materials. The driver was wearing a military style uniform, and was arrested at the scene in the early afternoon. An anti-terrorist enquiry has been launched. Bomb disposal experts are at the scene, along with sniffer dogs.’
Immediately after the incident took place, images in Antwerp, Belgium began to appear all over social media, and some of them showed the scene unfolding as the police, military personnel, and a bomb squad arrived to apprehend the terror suspect. As soon as the driver of the car was stopped in Antwerp, Belgium, he was immediately detained and later arrested.
It is not currently known if any bystanders sustained serious injuries, but those who witnessed the incident report that pedestrians were forced to jump out of the way as the driver of the vehicle kept increasing his speed in order to hit people.
Police have now raised the level of security in the centers of towns, as well as other places where a large number of people could be gathering in Antwerp, Belgium, such as shopping districts.
The terror event in Antwerp, Belgium occurred exactly one year and one day after the attack in Brussels, which left 32 people dead on March 22, 2016. This event happened after Islamic State suicide bombers attacked a metro station, as well as the city’s airport. The same people who were responsible for last year’s Belgium attack were also the perpetrators of the attack in Paris, which left 130 people dead in November of 2015.
This pedestrian attack in Antwerp, Belgium comes directly on the heels of the recent attack in London.
[Featured Image by Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Images]