Driver attack kills Canadian Muslim family

·2-min read

A man accused of killing four members of a Canadian Muslim family by running them over in his pick-up truck, targeted them in an attack motivated by hate, police say.

Police in London, Ontario, citing witnesses, say 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman jumped the kerb in his vehicle on Sunday, struck five members of the family, ranging in age from nine to 74, and then drove off at high speed.

Veltman, a resident of London who was arrested after the incident, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

He is due back in court on Thursday after being remanded to custody on Monday.

"There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate," Detective Superintendent Paul Waight told reporters.

"We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith."

Police in London were consulting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and prosecutors about potentially filing terrorism charges, he said.

The suspect did not have a criminal record and was not known to be a member of a hate group, police said.

He was arrested in a shopping centre car park without incident while wearing a body-armour-type vest, police said.

Police have not released the victims' names but the London Free Press said that among the dead were Syed Afzaal, 46, his wife, Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter, Yumnah Afzaal.

Syed Afzaal's 74-year-old mother, whose name has not been confirmed, also died.

Their nine-year-old son, Faez Afzaal, is in hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The family migrated from Pakistan about 14 years ago, according to media reports.

The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017. London Mayor Ed Holder said it was the worst mass murder his city had seen.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that "Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable - and it must stop."

A steady stream of mourners have gathered near the scene of the attack, laying flowers and saying prayers. One placard read: "When does it stop? Enough."

"This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and should be treated as such," said Mustafa Farooq, head of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

London, which has about 400,000 residents, has a large Muslim community.

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