Just one day after a radical Islamist ran over innocent victims on London’s Westminster Bridge and fatally stabbed a police officer before being shot dead outside the British Parliament, a similar-seeming incident was narrowly averted in the Belgian city of Antwerp.
According to CNN, Belgian police and military units were able to stop a vehicle and arrest the driver after he ran a red light and sped through a shopping district full of pedestrians in what French President Francois Hollande described as “an attempted terrorist attack.”
“At different times, pedestrians were put at risk,” the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said, according to CNN. “When soldiers attempted to intercept the vehicle, it fled.”
Reuters reported that the French-registered vehicle was eventually stopped and a 39-year-old French national of Tunisian origin identified only as “Mohamed R.” was taken into custody.
A search of the vehicle revealed knives, a gun alternatively described as a riot gun or pellet gun, and a container of unidentified liquid, which prompted the bomb squad to investigate.
While the suspect was believed to have been known to authorities for having a criminal record, it was not immediately clear whether the attempted attack was Islamist-inspired. Both CNN and Reuters speculated from Belgian and French sources that the man was intoxicated and in possession of illicit drugs and may have been trying to avoid a police checkpoint.
That said, considering the previous day’s terror attack in London, not to mention the terror bombing in Brussels which had occurred just a year earlier, authorities remained on high alert.
If the investigation of the incident reveals that it was, in fact, Islamist-inspired, expect to see Belgian and French authorities making a slew of arrests over the next several days and weeks as the man’s associates are detained and questioned.
“I want to thank the fast response team which arrested the man in a professional manner and may have prevented much worse,” Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever said.
Thankfully, nobody was injured or killed in what could have been yet another tragedy in Europe.
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