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Premeditated killing of Canadian Muslim family a terrorist attack, say Muslim leaders

18th Jun 2021
Premeditated killing of Canadian Muslim family a terrorist attack, say Muslim leaders

Yumna Afzaal, 15, her mum Madiha, 45, grandmum 74, whose name has not been released, and dad Salman, 46, were killed in London, Ontario, Canada. (Photo courtesy of the family) Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau speaks at a vigil for the Afzaal family outside Ontario Mosque.
(Credit: Seyit Aydoğan/Anadolu Agency).

 

Elham Asaad Buaras

Canada’s largest Muslim civil rights group has called on authorities to treat the premeditated killing of a Muslim family as a terrorist attack.

Four members of a Muslim family were killed on June 6 after they were deliberately mowed-down by a driver as they walked near an intersection in London, Ontario, about 124 miles southwest of Toronto.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 45, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and Salman’s 74-year-old mother who has not been named, were targeted because of their faith, police said. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, is in the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver, Nathaniel Veltman, chose his victims at random – ramming his black pickup into the family, who had immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago. The 20-year-old was arrested ten minutes after the attack in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident.

Veltman made his first court appearance on June 7 over a phone line from police HQ. Justice of the Peace Terry Steenson placed a publication ban on any evidence at the hearing. Veltman was charged with four first-degree murders and one count of attempted murder of a youth. London police are working with federal police and prosecutors to see about potential terrorism charges.

The killings of the three-generation family sent shock waves across the country and Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, expressed his sorrow on June 8 in Parliament as politicians paid tribute to the victims, first with a moment of silence and then with words.
“Lately, a lot of Canadians have been enjoying evening walks to get a bit of fresh air after long days at home during this pandemic,”

Trudeau said. “On Sunday, in London, Ontario, that’s what a grandmother, two parents, and two children went out to do … but unlike every other night, this family never made it home. “Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident.

This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” he told Parliament. To those who do not believe there is Islamophobia in Canada Trudeau asked “how can we look families in the eye and say Islamophobia isn’t real’?”.
“Freedom to worship can’t exist without freedom from fear, and every Canadian has a right to that,” said Erin O’Toole, head of the Conservative Party.

Dr Mustafa Saad Siddiqui, whose wife is related to Madiha Afzaal, tweeted, ‘I’m at a loss of words. Never thought hate crime could hit so close to home. The victims were my wife’s cousin and her family.’

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) called on the incident to be treated as a “terrorist attack” and said it was beyond horrified, saying Muslims in Canada have become all too familiar with the violence of Islamophobia.

In reference to the 2017 mass shooting at a Québec City mosque that killed six people by far-right nationalist. NCCM Head Mustafa Farooq said, “This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, and should be treated as such.”

Ed Holder, Mayor of London, said it was “an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims. It was rooted in unspeakable hatred. The magnitude of such hatred can make one question who we were as a city.”

Detective Supt Paul Waight said Veltman was wearing a vest that appeared to be like body armour. About a dozen police officers combed the area around the crash site looking for evidence.

Stephen Williams, London Police Chief, said, “We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith, we understand that this event may cause fear and anxiety in the community, particularly in the Muslim community, in any community targeted by hate. There is no tolerance in this community who are motivated by hate target others with violence.”

One woman who witnessed the aftermath of the deadly attack said, “I can’t get the sound of the screams out of my head”. Paige Martin said she was stopped at a red light around 8:30 pm when the large truck roared past her, shaking her car from the force.

“I was shaken up, thinking it was an erratic driver,” Martin said. Minutes later, she said, she came upon a gruesome scene near her home, with paramedics running to help, a police officer performing chest compressions on one person and three others lying on the ground. A few dozen people stood on the pavement and several drivers got out of their cars to help. “My heart is just so broken for them,” she said.

Speaking at the site of the crash family friend Zahid Khan said the victims were dedicated, decent and generous members of the London mosque.

“They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day,” said Khan tearfully. “This has totally destroyed me from the inside, I can’t really come to terms they were no longer here,” said Qazi Khalil, a friend and neighbour who last saw the family on June 3. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, said his province had no tolerance for “hate and Islamophobia”

 

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