Three dead in Tiananmen Square vehicle blaze

BEIJING: Three people were killed when a jeep crashed into a crowd in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Monday and burst into flames, state media said, as pictures showed a tower of smoke rising before the Forbidden City.

Immediately after the incident a security operation went into effect on the vast square, the site of pro-democracy protests in 1989 which were brutally crushed by the authorities.

Pictures posted on Chinese social media sites showed the blazing shell of the vehicle and a plume of black smoke rising near the portrait of communist founder Mao Zedong hanging on the towering wall of the former imperial palace.

There were also police vehicles gathered, and crowds looking on.

Several of the pictures were deleted within minutes, streets leading to the square were blocked off, screens were erected and two reporters were forcibly detained close to the site.

“A motor vehicle went into the crowd in front of the Tiananmen rostrum Monday noon,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“The jeep driver and two occupants have been confirmed dead,” it said, adding that “many tourists and police on duty” were injured by the vehicle.

Beijing transport authorities said on a verified social media account that a subway station next to the square had been closed at the request of police.