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Armed officers evacuated one of central London’s busiest areas on Friday evening after reports of gunfire.

The Metropolitan Police said they were called at 4.38pm after “a number of reports of shots fired on Oxford Street and underground at Oxford Circus tube station”.

It added: “Police have responded as if the incident is terrorist related. Armed and unarmed officers are on scene and dealing along with colleagues from British Transport Police.”

Oxford Circus station was closed and reports from the scene — at the junction of Oxford Street and Regents Street in London’s West End — spoke of people fleeing in panic from the station, although the nature of the incident was unclear.

The British Transport Police, which polices London’s underground and the national rail network, said they were responding to an “incident” at Oxford Circus.

“The station is currently closed, please avoid the area at this time,” the force wrote on Twitter. “Officers are on scene.”

The Metropolitan Police, which operates on the capital’s streets, told people who were on Oxford St to go into a building.

“Officers are on scene and dealing,” they wrote on Twitter. “More info when we can.”

One BBC reporter near the scene described people running in distress away from Oxford Circus, dropping shopping bags as they went. The day is one of the year’s busiest shopping days, with many stores holding promotions for Black Friday, the start of the Christmas shopping period.

Police said no casualties had been reported so far.

If the incident is confirmed as terrorism, it will be the sixth incident so classed this year by police — and the fifth in London. In March, an attacker killed four pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge before stabbing dead a police officer and being shot dead himself. In May, an attacker killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester Arena, while in June three men linked to a jihadist network killed eight people in a combined attack with a van and knives on London Bridge and Borough Market.

Later in June, a man was charged after a van struck worshippers outside Finsbury Park mosque, killing one. In September, a makeshift explosive device ignited on a London Underground train at Parsons Green, injuring 23.

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