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Car breaches Vatican gate at high speed, man arrested

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -A man who breached Vatican security on Thursday evening driving at high speed through a gate of the city-state and reaching a central courtyard of the Apostolic Palace was arrested and will undergo compulsory medical treatment, the Vatican said.

A statement on Thursday said a Vatican policeman fired a gun and hit the car. The man, described as about 40 and in an unstable sate of mind, did not get near the guest house on the other side of Vatican City where Pope Francis lives.

The statement said the security breach occurred at about 8 p.m, when the man drove through Saint Ann's gate, one of several entrances that separate the 108-acre sovereign city-state from Rome.

On Friday, the Vatican said a prosecutor questioned the man, who was accompanied by a lawyer. He was later taken to the psychiatric unit of a hospital in Rome to undergo compulsory medical treatment.

The man first tried to enter the Vatican but Swiss Guards turned him away at the gate. He then manoeuvred the vehicle to pick up speed and raced through the gate as well as a second checkpoint near the back of St. Peter's Basilica.

A policeman fired a shot and hit the car's front fender but the man kept speeding ahead, and reached the San Damaso Courtyard, part of the Apostolic Palace where previous popes lived and where Francis still holds official meetings.

He was arrested in the courtyard and put in a cell in the Vatican's small jail, where he was examined by Vatican doctors.

Italy's ANSA news agency, citing unnamed high-level sources, said on Friday the man had made two previous attempts on Thursday to enter the Vatican, saying he wanted to speak to the pope, but Swiss Guards refused him entry.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; additional reporting by Angelo Amante; editing by Chris Reese, David Gregorio and Bill Berkrot)