A driver drove his pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them on the spot whilst leaving the other injured. The attack was deliberate and pre-planned to target the family because they were Muslims, reported the Canadian police on Monday.
Officials said a young man was arrested in the parking area of a mall in the vicinity after the tragic incident occurred in Ontario city of London. The authorities said the man was driving a black pickup truck when he drove over the curb and hit the victims at an intersection.
Soon after the Canadian police reported the incident, Mayor Ed Holder said: “This was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims.” The extended family identified the deceased as Salman Afzal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, daughter Yumna, 15, and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name remained undisclosed. The couple’s young son, Fayez, has survived the attack and is currently hospitalized.
The statement also described the Afzal family as a “model family” for Muslims, Pakistanis, and Canadians. “They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were top students in their school and connected strongly with their spiritual identity.”
A charity page on the web said the father was a physiotherapist and a cricket buff and his wife was in the process of working on her Ph.D. in civil engineering at a nearby university in London. The couple’s daughter was a hard-working student of ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of strength for the family, read the page.
The family also called for public attention to the issue and demanded a unified standing against hate crime and Islamophobia. According to the statement, the driver who killed the family was “influenced by a group that he was associated with, and the rest of the community must take a strong stand against this.”
Canadian police have identified the suspect as 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman who has been arrested on charges of four counts of first-degree murder. The police said they are yet to determine if Veltman belongs to a particular hate group. Detective Supt. Paul Waight confirmed the act of terror was planned but refused to divulge any detail pointing to a possible “hate crime.”
Many police officers huddled around the crime site on Monday, searching for any clues linked to the attack. Police Chief Stephen Williams said the family was “targeted because of their Islamic faith.” Canada has always been warm and open to immigrants despite their religion, but in 2017 a French-Canadian man went on a shooting spree at Quebec City Mosque which resulted in the death of six people.
A woman who witnessed the deadly attack stated how she couldn’t stop crying for the victims. Paige Martin was at a red signal when a pickup car swept past her. Martin blamed the poor for turning on the “erratic” driver but was later shocked to see three people sprawled across the road, on an intersection close to her home. Chaos had ensued and Martin only saw the Canadian police helping the medical officials to perform chest compressions on one person.
Qazi Khalil, a family friend of the deceased said he saw them on Thursday when they came out for their nighttime walk. In a statement, Khalil said: “This has destroyed me from the inside. I can’t come to the terms they were no longer here.” The incident was addressed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter who declared this hate against Muslims as “despicable,” which stopped immediately.