Belgians thwart car attack day after terror strikes London

Police officers stand next to a car which had entered the main pedestrianised shopping street in the city at high speed, in Antwerp, Belgium, March 23, 2017. 


BRUSSELS -- Belgian authorities have raised security in the port of Antwerp after a car with French license plates drove at high speed through a busy shopping street, forcing pedestrians to jump out of the way.

The federal prosecutor’s office said the car was intercepted late Thursday morning at the port docks and a Frenchman living in France was arrested. Authorities then raised security in the center of town, in places where people normally gather.

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

The office said that, “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.

It looked very similar to the attack outside the British Parliament the previous day, in which a still-unidentified attacker drove an SUV down a crowded sidewalk before getting out and fatally stabbing a police officer. Two civilians, including an American man, were killed on the sidewalk of Westminster Bridge in that attack. 

Neither Belgian nor British officials drew any immediate link between 

The federal prosecutor named the driver as Mohamed R., born May 8, 1977.

“Pedestrians along the route were in danger on several occasions,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “When soldiers tried to intercept the vehicle, it sped off. A little later, the rapid reaction team of the Antwerp managed to intercept the vehicle and capture the driver.”

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

The events happened a day after the nation held remembrance services for the Brussels airport and subway attacks, which killed 32 people on March 22, 2016.