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Mystery car blaze on China's Tiananmen Square

Police have closed off Beijing's Tianamen Square after a puzzling, fatal car crash at its main entrance. Chinese authorities said three motorists had been killed and 11 people, including tourists, injured.

Beijing authorities erected curtain-like barricades at the scene of a fiery car crash at Tiananmen Square on Monday, saying three motorists had been killed. Pictures posted on Chinese social media sites were promptly deleted.

Beijing police wrote on their official blog site that a "jeep crashed into the guardrail on Jinshui Bridge, then caught fire."

Social media users posted pictures of the flaming wreck in front of the gate in view of a huge portrait of Communist China's founder, Mao Zedong. The news agency AFP said several pictures of the blazing sports-utility vehicle (SUV) were deleted within minutes.

The bridge across a moat lies close to the square and Forbidden City, which are guarded daily by uniformed and plain-clothes personnel.

Explosion, then fire?

Foreign tourists spoke of an explosion followed by fire and said that police had told tourists to vacate the adjacent Forbidden City. Beijing's transport authority said a subway next to the square was closed at the request of police.

No pedestrians were allowed near the crash scene, although a main road was later opened to vehicles.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, when asked if there was any evidence of a terrorist attack, replied that she did not know "the specifics."

Xinhua, China's official news agency, said 11 injured had been taken to Beijing hospitals, including police officers and tourists.

The Jinshui bridge passes over a moat around the Forbidden City, which forms part of a complex housing China's central leadership and the Great Hall.

Tiananmen was the focus of military crackdown on democracy protests in 1989.

ipj/tj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)