In an attack motivated by hate, four members of a Canadian Muslim family have been killed and a 9-yar-old seriously injured after a man intentionally ran over them with his pickup truck.
“Based on information collected during the course of the investigation, we believe that this was an intentional act,” London Police Chief Steve Williams said on Monday afternoon, The National News reported.
“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”
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Four Muslims, two women aged 77 and 44, a 46-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl, were killed Sunday when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, used a black pick-up truck to jump a curb and strike them.
A nine-year-old boy was seriously injured and is recovering in hospital.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate,” Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London police department said, adding that police in London were consulting with the federal police and prosecutors about potentially filing terrorism charges.
“Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family knows the model family they were as Muslims, Canadians, and Pakistanis. They were always there giving and participating in spreading goodness,” the family said in a statement.
“We need to understand that the destruction of a family in the brutal and horrific manner like this is something we must all stand against.”
The attack has shocked the city of 400,000 residents, 200km south-west of Toronto.
“Words fail on a day as dark as this,” said the city’s Mayor, Ed Holder.
“I grieve for the family, three generations of whom are now deceased. I grieve for their loved ones, I pray for the child.”
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that he was “horrified” by the news. “Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop,” he said.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims, a national advocacy group, said it was “beyond horrified” by the deadly attack.
“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, and should be treated as such. We call on the government to prosecute the attacker to the fullest extent of the law, including considering terrorist charges,” the group’s CEO, Mustafa Farooq, said in a statement on Monday.
“This loss of a family, the loss of a child in our community because of Islamophobia – this is a sorrow that will run deep for a long time. But let that sorrow be the ground where we stand for justice, and stand for change.”
The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.
Sunday’s attack came amid rising concerns about Islamophobic attacks in provinces across Canada and widespread calls for authorities to tackle racism, hate-motivated violence, and the prevalence of far-right groups.
Statistics Canada said in March that police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims “rose slightly” to 181 incidents in 2019 – the last year for which the data is available. That is up from 166 incidents the previous year.