The driver and two passengers were killed in the 12:05 p.m. incident. The injured included tourists and security officials stationed at one of the most well-guarded locations in China.
The Xinhua news service said only that the incident was “under investigation,” but it appeared to have been a deliberate attack. The vehicle was driven about 1,500 feet along the sidewalk heading toward the square's iconic portrait of Mao Tse-tung before it burst into flames. It was unclear whether it exploded or was stopped by security personnel.
Photographs on Sina.com, a microblog service, showed plumes of smoke rising from the sidewalk near the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is on the north side of the square leading into the Forbidden City, traditional home of China’s emperors.
Xinhua said the vehicle had headed south on Nanchizi, the street on the east side of the Forbidden City, before turning onto the sidewalk.
Tiananmen Square is the most sensitive location in China and frequently the scene of attempted protests and self-immolations. The square is best known for the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.