TORONTO: Four members of a Muslim family were killed on Sunday in Canada when a pickup truck ran over them.
A driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because they were Muslims, Canadian police said Monday.
Authorities said a young man was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident Sunday night in the Ontario city of London. Police said a black pickup truck mounted a curb and struck the victims at an intersection.
“This was an act of mass murder perpetuated against Muslims,” Mayor Ed Holder said. “It was rooted in unspeakable hatred.”
The extended family issued a statement identifying the dead as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter Yumna, 15; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld. The hospitalized boy was identified as Fayez.
“Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family know the model family they were as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis,” the statement said. “They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were top students in their school and connected strongly with spiritual their identity.
The family said in its statement that the public needs to stand against hate and Islamophobia.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was in custody facing four counts of first-degree murder. Police said Veltman, a resident of London, did not know the victims.
Detective Supt. Paul Waight said London police were working with federal police and prosecutors to see about potential terrorism charges. He declined to detail evidence pointing to a possible hate crime, but said the attack was planned.
“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,” Police Chief Stephen Williams said. “… There is no tolerance in this community who are motivated by hate target others with violence.”
UPDATE # 2 – LONDON, ON (June 7, 2021) – Charges have been laid in relation to a hit and run collision in the north-west end of the city yesterday evening. Read more here: https://t.co/me7p7ACdZF #ldnont pic.twitter.com/aydpBXKtDe— London Police Service ON (@lpsmediaoffice) June 7, 2021
“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,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.
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.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 7, 2021