Belgium driver on terrorism charge over Antwerp 'attack'

A forensics expert stands next to a car which had entered the main pedestrian shopping street in the city at high speed, in Antwerp, Belgium, 23 March 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A bomb disposal team was called in after an unknown substance was discovered in the car

A man who drove at a crowd in Antwerp has been charged with attempted terrorism, Belgian prosecutors say.

No-one was injured but shoppers in a pedestrian zone were forced to dive out of the way in Thursday's incident.

The man was caught by soldiers, who found knives, a non-lethal gun and a substance which a bomb disposal team had to deal with in the car.

It came a day after four people were killed in an attack involving a high-speed car in London.

The vehicle hit many people on Westminster bridge near the Houses of Parliament before the driver got out. He was shot dead after fatally stabbing a police officer.

Witnesses in Belgium told the BBC that it was only because the London attack was on their minds that they had been alert enough to jump out of the way.

'Under the influence'

The Belgium suspect has been identified as 39-year-old "Mohamed R", a French resident and Tunisian national.

He was charged with "an attempt to murder in a terrorist manner, an attempt to hit and wound in a terrorist manner and arms infractions", the federal prosecutor's office said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Security has been tightened in Belgium's most populous city

When detained the man was "under the influence of something", sources said, but AFP news agency reported that it was not clear what substance.

He was not in a state to be questioned by police until Friday, sources told AFP.

Following the suspected attack, Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever thanked Antwerp citizens, police and rapid response team "who arrested the suspect in a professional manner and may have avoided much worse that way".

Just two days earlier, Belgium marked the first anniversary of the attacks in Brussels airport and a metro station, which killed 32 people and left more than 300 wounded.

Security has been tightened in the centre of Antwerp, a port city that sits on the northern border with the Netherlands.

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