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Deadly Car Crash at Beijing's Tiananmen Square

A sport utility vehicle burst into flames after plowing through a crowd in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, killing five people and injuring 38 others.

Chinese police, who say the three people in the car are among the dead, have posted a statement saying the vehicle was on a busy nearby street Monday when it veered onto a pedestrian area and sped past barriers before crashing near the iconic picture of Mao Zedong and catching fire. Several witnesses are quoted as saying they heard an explosion before seeing the smoke and flames.

Authorities descended on the scene shortly after the incident, erecting barriers to prevent onlookers and evacuating the highly-sensitive area.

No word was given about a possible cause, and pictures of the incident were quickly deleted from the Chinese microblog site Weibo.

Tiananmen Square was the scene of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy protest that ended in a bloody crackdown by Chinese authorities. It is surrounded by the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's parliament, and the mausoleum that holds the remains of Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China.

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