Antwerp car
Police officers stand next to a car which had entered Antwerp's main pedestrianised shopping street at high speed Anouk Frankly/Twitter/Reuters

A man has been arrested in Belgium after he tried to drive his car into crowds on the busiest shopping street in Antwerp, a day after a terrorist ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four and injuring 40.

The driver was a 39-year-old French national of Tunisian descent and was in possession of a rifle, bladed weapons and a can filled with an unknown substance, according to the Belgian prosecutor.

He was wearing camouflaged clothing and driving a car with a French licence plate. He was stopped by military police as he drove through a red light at high speed, in the direction of the city's busiest shopping street, De Meir at 10.45am (9.45am GMT).

"At about 11 am this morning a vehicle entered De Meir at high speed due to which pedestrians had to jump away," a police spokesperson said.

Additional military personnel were deployed to the city centre following the incident, he added.

Antwerp mayor Bart de Wever is due to hold a press conference this afternoon. He said he is grateful for the swift response of Belgian police. "We have managed to prevent an attack because of them," he said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel wrote on Twitter: "We are remaining vigilant. Our police force carried out excellent work in Antwerp - thank you! Belgium government is monitoring the situation."

French President Francois Hollande said that the incident appeared 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. Therefore we must continue to be on high alert and mobilise all our forces."

The incident happened a day after Belgium marked the first anniversary of the bomb attacks at a metro station and airport in Brussels that killed 32 people.