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Canada: 4 dead after family run down by vehicle because “of their Muslim faith”

8th Jun 2021
Canada: 4 dead after family run down by vehicle because “of their Muslim faith”

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA): Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sorrow Monday for the four members of a Muslim family who were killed when a pickup truck driver intentionally plowed into them in London, Ontario.

“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act and that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith,” said London Police Detective Inspector Paul Waight at a press briefing.

“I’m horrified by the news from London, Ontario,” the prime minister tweeted. “To the loved ones of those who were terrorized by yesterday’s [Sunday] act of hatred, we are here for you.

“Islamophobia had no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop.”

Another family member, a boy, 9, was also struck and he is in hospital in serious but not life-threatening condition.

“We are also here for the child who remains in hospital – our hearts go out to you, and you will be in our thoughts as you recover,” Trudeau tweeted.

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 withheld. The hospitalized boy was identified as Fayez. The incident occurred about 8:40 p.m. Sunday.

“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.”

“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 added.

Police said the driver, who was wearing a device similar to body armor, was arrested shortly afterward about seven kilometers (4.3 miles) from the scene.

The driver, Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, police said.

“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act and that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith,” said London Police Detective Inspector Paul Waight at a press briefing.

At a virtual press conference Monday, the mayor of the city of London also condemned the crime.

“Let me be clear, this was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, and rooted in unspeakable hatred,” said Mayor Ed Holder.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) called it a “terrorist attack”.

“A man allegedly got in his car, saw a Muslim family walking down the street, and made the decision that they do not deserve to live. He did not know them. This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and should be treated as such,” said Mustafa Farooq, the chief executive of the association in a statement.

The NCCM said it has documented 322 anti-Muslim incidents between 2013 and 2019 ranging from physical violence to online harassment.

London is a city of about 405,000 about 200 km (124 miles) southwest of Toronto. Police said the family was walking along a street and had stopped to cross at an intersection when the truck was driven over the curb and hit them.

Veltman was slated to appear in a court later Monday.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Map of Canada by CIA/Public Domain]

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