Brett Gundlock / AP
TORONTO – A driver plows a pickup truck in a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack targeting the victims because they are Muslims, Canadian police said on Monday.
Authorities say a young man was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall after Sunday night’s incident in the London city of Ontario. Police said a black pickup truck installed a curb and hit the victims at an intersection.
“It was an act of mass murder continued against Muslims,” said Mayor Ed Holder. “It was rooted in inexpressible 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 hidden. The hospitalized boy was identified as Fayes.
“Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family knows the exemplary family, which included Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis,” the statement said. “They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were the best students in their school and were strongly associated with their spiritual identity.”
The fundraising website says the father was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast, and his wife worked as a doctor of civil engineering at West University in London. Their daughter was finishing ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of the family, the page says.
In a statement, the family said the public should oppose hatred and Islamophobia.
“This young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group he was associated with, and the rest of the community must take a firm stand against it, from the highest levels in our government to every member of the community. “, Said in a statement.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was in custody on four counts of first-degree murder. Police said Weltman, a London resident, did not know the victims.
Detective Soup. Paul White said police had not established whether the suspect was a member of any particular hate group. He said London police were working with federal police and prosecutors to find out about potential terrorism charges. He declined to give detailed evidence of 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 on Monday. Blue markers on the ground littered the intersection.
“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,” said Police Chief Stephen Williams. “… There is no tolerance in this community that is motivated by hatred to lead others to violence.”
Canada usually welcomes immigrants and all religions, but in 2017, a French Canadian man known for his far-right, nationalist views began firing on a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people.
A woman who witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash said she could not stop thinking about the victims. Paige Martin said she was stopped at a red light around 8:30 p.m. when a large pickup truck roared past her. She said her car shook with power.
“I was shocked to think he was a fickle driver,” Martin said.
Minutes later, she said, she came across a horrifying, chaotic scene at a crossroads near her home, with first responders rushing to help, a police officer compressing a man’s chest and three others lying on the ground. . Several dozen people stood on the sidewalk and several drivers got out of their cars to help.
“I can’t get the scream out of my head,” Martin said.
From his apartment, Martin said he could see the scene and watched an employee embrace a sheet on a body around midnight. “My heart is so broken for them,” she said.
Zahid Khan, a family friend, said the three generations killed were a grandmother, a father, a mother and a teenage daughter. The family immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago and were devoted, honorable and generous members of London’s Muslim mosque, he said.
“They were just going for a walk that they would go out for every day,” Khan said through tears near the crash site. “I just wanted to see.”
Kazi Khalil said he saw the family on Thursday when they were on a night walk. The families lived close to each other and would gather on holidays, he said.
“It completely destroyed me from within,” Khalil said. “I can’t really get to the point where they weren’t here anymore.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said that Muslims in Canada are too aware of the violence of Islamophobia. “This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and should be treated as such,” said Council President Mustafa Farouk.
Nawaz Tahir, a London lawyer and leader of the Muslim community, said: “We must oppose and eliminate Islamophobia and Islamic violence – not tomorrow, today, for our children, our family, our communities.”
The mayor said the flags would be lowered in three days in London, which he said has 30,000 to 40,000 Muslims among more than 400,000 residents.
“For the Muslim community in London and for Muslims across the country, know that we are with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hatred is insidious and contemptuous – and it must stop,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter.