Attempted Antwerp attack: Shotgun and bladed weapons found in man's car who tried to drive into shopping district

'Because of these elements, and the events in London yesterday, the case is being taken on by the federal prosecutor's office'

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The Independent Online

A shotgun and several bladed weapons have been found in the car of a man who tried to drive at high speed through a busy shopping street in Antwerp, forcing pedestrians to jump out of the way.

The federal prosecutor's office said the car was intercepted at the port docks and police arrested a man, identified as 39-year-old Mohamed R, who has been living in France.

Soldiers in the busy shopping street were immediately involved in trying to control and stop the car, which was moving away at high speed.

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

​The bomb squad was brought in and the authorities raised security in the centre of town, in places where people normally gather. 

Police officers stand next to a car which had entered the main pedestrianised shopping street in the city at high speed (Reuters)

The office said "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. 

A spokesperson for Antwerp Police told The Independent: “Police intercepted the car at around 11am this morning.

“There were no injuries and one man was arrested. The incident is under investigation.”

Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters said the driver of the car was detained once it was stopped. No further information could be given.

Prime minister Charles Michel said: "We remain vigilant. Our security services have done excellent work."

French President Francois Hollande said a French national appeared to have been involved in the suspected attack.

"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," Mr Hollande said.

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

The events happened on the day after the nation held remembrance services for the Brussels attacks, which killed 32 people last year.

Belgium has been living under the second highest anti-terror alarm ever since.