LONDON (REUTERS) - Eleven people were injured on Saturday (Oct 7) when a car collided with pedestrians near London’s Natural History Museum, in one of the capital’s busiest tourist areas, but police doused fears it was a terrorist attack, saying it was a road traffic incident.
Police said it was believed the car had mounted the pavement outside the popular attraction in west London and collided with a number of pedestrians. Officers had arrested a man at the scene and he was now being questioned.
Britain has suffered five attacks blamed on terrorism so far this year, three of which involved vehicles, and the incident in an area packed with tourists at the weekend had prompted concerns that the collision had been a deliberate act.
“The incident is a road traffic investigation and not a terrorist-related incident,” a police statement said.
London’s ambulance service said they had treated 11 people, mostly for head and leg injuries, with nine taken to hospital. Police said none of the injuries were life-threatening or life-changing.
Unverified footage from the scene showed a man being pinned to the ground by what appeared to be four security guards or police officers.
The Natural History Museum is located on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, one of the British capital’s most upmarket districts and home to a host of other museums, restaurants as well as university buildings. Streets in the area are packed with tourists at the weekend.
It is the fourth most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, with 4.6 million visits during 2016, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.
The collision brought the area to a standstill as police cordoned off a wide area whilst they carried out their investigation.
“We heard a horrible thudding noise and a car engine. Everyone started running and screaming inside,” Connor Honeyman, who was in the queue for the museum, told the BBC.
A Reuters witness said large numbers of paramedics and police, including armed officers, were at the scene although the atmosphere appeared calm.
The car believed to have been involved in the incident was lying diagonally across the road, jammed between two other vehicles. A BBC reporter said she had seen one or two people on the ground and police had told her the injuries sustained were minor.
“My thanks to the first responders at this incident this afternoon and the actions of members of the public. My thoughts are with the injured,” Prime Minister Theresa May said on Twitter.
Britain is on its second highest security alert level, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.
In March, a man drove a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge killing four before stabbing a police officer to death in the grounds of parliament.
Three Islamist militants drove into people on London Bridge in June before stabbing people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight. The same month, a van was driven into worshippers near a mosque in north London which left one man dead.