Antwerp, Belgium – Initial reports coming out of Belgium this morning are indicating that an unknown assailant disregarded a Belgique police checkpoint and “drove at high speeds into a crowded shopping district, De Meir to which pedestrians had to jump away.” The maroon Citroen wagon with French license plates was seen running a red light then increasing its speed past a police checkpoint at the start of the De Meir, sped through the busy shopping district, then was halted by a Belgique police rapid response team and the driver, described as of North African descent was detained. No injuries were reported.
The De Meir shopping street is Antwerp’s hub for commerce where locals and tourists alike can walk the street and shop in the various stores and boutiques that line the street. Cars have been forbidden on this street since 1993 to allow more pedestrian traffic through the shopping district, as well as the famous De Meir connecting foot traffic with the Antwerp city hall and the city’s central train station. According to the Belgique police spokesperson, the driver arrested was French Tunisian Mohammad R, who was dressed in full woodland camouflage and was armed with what the Belgique police are calling a “riotgun,” or shotgun. Mohammad was also known to police as Antwerp city mayor, Serge Muyters explained in a brief press conference that “The man who was arrested is known to the police [and has been] banned bearing of arms.” A bomb-squad was also called in and set a wide perimeter then deployed a bomb-defusing robot to inspect the vehicle as a full gas can, or jerry can was found inside and authorities feared the vehicle could possibly be rigged to blow.
Belgique authorities are treating this as a possible terrorist attack, believe the assailant to be a radicalized Muslim, and have begun investigating the incident as such. This attempt in what is shaping out to be a type of copycat attack of yesterday’s vehicle and knife attack in London near the British Parliament which British Prime Minister, Theresa May described as a “sick and depraved attack.” 40 people were injured in yesterday’s attack along with five dead, to include the British police constable, Keith Palmer who succumbed to his knife wounds. No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for today’s failed attack, nor has anything on Mohammad R’s social media feeds indicate any sort of plans for an attack. Although this situation is currently developing and further investigation could possibly yield some clues or answers to the assailant’s actions, SOFREP will continue to monitor this story and provide updates as this situation unfolds.
Feature image courtesy of Reuters