Wreckage of the car after the incident in Melbourne, January 20, 2017.
Wreckage of the car after the incident in Melbourne, January 20, 2017.

Police in Melbourne have apprehended the driver of a car that rammed into a crowd – killing three people and injuring 20 in the centre of Australia's second largest city, around noon local time on Friday.

Rattled witnesses said the incident was clearly deliberate, but police have now ruled out the possibility of a politically motivated terror attack.

"He was half hanging outside the car...he was just so reckless...he just didn't care," witness Laura Pollson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Bystander video posted to YouTube appeared to show the red sports car erratically skidding and spinning in circles in the middle of an intersection, before careening onto the sidewalk into a crowd of people.

"A male deliberately drove into pedestrians in the Bourke Street mall, and we currently have three deceased and at least 20 injuries," Victoria Police acting commander Stuart Bateson told reporters on the scene. "We have the offender in custody. There is no further threat to the public at this stage. I can also confirm that this is not a counter-terrorism-related incident," Bateson said.

Police have temporarily locked down the centre of the city and suspended tram services. Melbourne is currently hosting the Australian Open tennis grand slam and is packed with thousands of tourists. The tennis venue is several city blocks from where the incident occurred. Police said the tournament continued as normal.

Australia has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since 2014 and authorities have said they have thwarted a number of plots. There have been several "lone wolf" assaults, including a 2014 cafe siege in Sydney that left two hostages and the gunman dead.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies