Ontario: In a targeted attack on Muslims, a 20-year-old driver ran over an entire Muslim family with his pickup truck killing four out of the five members of the family in the city of London in Ontario province on Sunday.
Sunday’s attack is being seen as the worst hate crime against the Muslim community in Canada since the 2017 Quebec City Mosque shootings which claimed six lives.
The police on Monday called it “an attack motivated by hate” and said that the accused, identified as Nathaniel Veltman, was wearing a vest that looked like body armour.
Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London police department told reporters that there is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate.
“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,” Waight added.
He further said that police in London – 200 km (120 miles) southwest of Toronto – were consulting with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and prosecutors about “potentially filing terrorism charges”.
The suspect, according to the police, does not have a criminal record, and is not known to be a member of a hate group.
The police added that there is no evidence that he had any accomplices.
The attacker was arrested after the incident and has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. According to reports, Veltman, the resident of London is due back in court on Thursday after being remanded to custody on Monday.
The names of the victims according to the London Free Press are Syed Afzaal (46), his wife Madiha Salman (44), their 15-year-old daughter, Yumnah Afzal, and Syed Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother whose name is not yet confirmed.
Their nine-year-old son, Fara Afzaal, is in the hospital with serious but non- life-threatening injuries, according to Reuters.
The family immigrated from Pakistan about 14 years ago, according to media reports.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacting to the attack, said that he was “horrified” by the news. “I’m horrified by the news from London, Ontario. To the loved ones of those who were terrorized by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you. We are also here for the child who remains in hospital – our hearts go out to you, and you will be in our thoughts as you recover,” he wrote in a tweet.
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop,” Trudeau wrote in another tweet.
London city Mayor Ed Holder called the incident “an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims – against Londoners – and rooted in unspeakable hatred”.
Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced to dim the Toronto Sign on Monday night “to mourn the London family – three generations of one family – targeted and murdered because of their Islamic faith and to stand in solidarity with our Muslim community”.
He added that the city stands “with the Muslim community in London and here in Toronto in the face of this tragedy. And we absolutely reject the hatred and Islamophobia that led to this deadly violence”.
With agency inputs