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Frenchman arrested in Belgium’s Antwerp after trying to drive into crowd

Marco De Swart, ANP, AFP | Belgian police patrol the northern city of Antwerp on January 16, 2015.

Police in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp detained a French national on Thursday after he tried to drive a car into a major pedestrian shopping street at high speed.

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“At about 11am this morning a vehicle entered De Meir at high speed due to which pedestrians had to jump away,” a police spokesman told a news conference, referring to the street name.

The driver was later arrested and additional police and military personnel were deployed to the centre of Antwerp.

“We remain vigilant. Our security services have done excellent work,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office identified the suspect as Mohamed R., a 39-year-old French national. A number of weapons were found in his car, including a rifle, knives and a canister containing an unidentified liquid.

EN NW SOT BELGIUM PM CHARLES MICHEL 16H

French President François Hollande also confirmed that the driver appeared to be French.

“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,” Hollande told reporters.

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

The incident comes a day after three people were killed in an attack near the British parliament in the heart of London. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the tragic incident on Thursday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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