Thirty-eight people, including tourists, have been injured after a vehicle entered the heavily guarded Tiananmen Square and exploded after crashing into security barriers.
Chinese state media Xinhua news has revealed that three people died during the incident that saw an unidentified vehicle plough into a group of people, forcing local police to evacuate the entire square.
Facts surrounding the event remain cloudy but Xinhua news agency said the incident took place at the north end of Tiananmen Square, near an entrance to the Forbidden City.
"A driver and two passengers were killed after a jeep crashed into a crowd of people and caught fire," the news agency revealed.
"Eleven tourists and police officers were also injured by the jeep, which crashed into a guardrail of Jinshui Bridge on the moat of the Forbidden City before bursting into flames at 12:05 pm," it said, citing police and emergency officials.
Initial news reports stated that just three people had died and the number of injured individuals was 11 but those figures have risen over the past few hours.
One unnamed eyewitness told AFP news agency: "I saw a car turn a bend and suddenly it was driving on the pavement, it happened fast but looked like it knocked people over."
"There were paramilitary police who told people to get back into their cars and stop taking pictures."
News of the event first surfaced on social media outlets but it became apparent that some images were quickly being removed.
Police officials were also detaining official news reporters, including those from the BBC, at the scene.
Tiananmen Square is kept under strict surveillance due to its close proximity to key political institutions and to prevent protestors and petitioners gathering to make their points heard.
In 2011, a man set himself on fire at Tiananmen Square following what officials said was a legal dispute, close to the square's portrait of Chairman Mao.