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Canadian PM: Killing of Muslim family a 'terrorist attack'

  • 8 Jun 2021

A Canadian driving a pick-up truck slammed into a Muslim family in London, Ontario on Sunday evening in what police say was an attack “motivated by hate”.

People at a makeshift memorial at the fatal crime scene where a man driving a truck jumped the curb to run over a Muslim family in Ontario, Canada on June 7, 2021. ( Carlos Osorio / Reuters )

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has labeled as a "terrorist attack" the killing of four members of a Muslim family, who were run down by a man driving a pick-up truck in London, Ontario.

A man driving a pick-up truck slammed into a Muslim family in Canada's Ontario province, killing four members and wounding the fifth in a terror attack on Sunday evening that police and officials confirm was premeditated and motivated by anti-Islam hatred.

The attacker wearing a vest "like body armour" fled the scene but was arrested at a mall seven kilometres (four miles) from the intersection in London, Ontario where the attack happened, said Detective Superintendent Paul Waight on Monday.

The extended family issued a statement identifying the dead as Madiha Afzal, 44; her husband Salman Afzal, 46;  their daughter Yumna, 15; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld. The hospitalised boy was identified as Fayez.

"There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim," he told a news conference.

Canada's Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair described it as a "horrific act of Islamophobia."

"They believe the family was targeted because of their faith, and that the attacker was motivated by his hatred of Muslims," he said.

"This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities," Trudeau said during a speech at the House of Commons on Tuesday.

'Act of terror' against a model family

“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."

A fundraising webpage said the mother was working on a PhD in civil engineering at Western University in London and her husband was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast.

Their daughter was finishing ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of the family, the page said.

The family said in its statement that the public needs to stand against hate and anti-Islam sentiment.

"This young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group that he associated with, and the rest of the community must take a strong stand against this, from the highest levels in our government to every member of the community,” the statement said.

The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

The attacker was identified as 20-year-old Canadian Nathaniel Veltman.

Veltman faces four counts of first-degree murder. Police said Veltman, a resident of London, did not know the victims.

Waight said police had not determined if the suspect was a member of any specific group. 

He 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.

About a dozen police officers combed the area around the crash site looking for evidence Monday.

Blue markers on the ground dotted the intersection.

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