Canadian man accused of killing Muslim family members to face terror charges

Man was arrested shortly after attack close to oldest mosque in London, Ontario

LONDON, CANADA - JUNE 12: Mourners and supporters gather for a public funeral for members of the Afzaal family at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario on June 12, 2021 in London, Canada. The Muslim family was run over by a truck in a racially-motivated terror attack on Sunday, leaving the community shattered by grief.   Ian Willms/Getty Images/AFP
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A Canadian man accused of deliberately running over a Muslim family with his vehicle, killing four of them, now faces terrorism charges as well as those for murder, prosecutors said on Monday.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested shortly after the June 6 attack in a car park in London, Ontario, close to the city's oldest mosque.

He was wearing what appeared to be body armour and a helmet at the time, police said.

Due to a publication ban, details from a hearing in which Mr Veltman appeared by Zoom on Monday from jail cannot be revealed.

But provincial and federal prosecutors gave their consent to start terrorism proceedings against him, alleging that the killings of Salman Afzaal, his wife, their daughter and Afzaal's mother, and the attempted killing of the couple's son, constituted terrorist activity, London police said.

The Muslim community in London welcomed the decision.

“It's important that the laws that we have are applied equally,” said community leader Nawaz Tahir.

“In order for us to heal and move forward from this, [that] we call it what it was. That was an act of terror against the Afzaal family."

Canadian officials have been reluctant to apply terror charges in similar situations in the past.

After the Quebec City mosque attack in 2017 in which six people died, the community called on the government to apply terrorism charges, but that never happened.

“It’s a good step,” said Mohamed Labidi, the former president of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said: "It is really important for us to name it as an act of terror.

"And it is important for us identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada and to Canadians."

The members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk near their home when they were run down.

FILE PHOTO: Nathaniel Veltman, 20, accused of mowing down a Muslim family with his pickup truck in what Canadian police are calling a hate-motivated attack, appears briefly by Zoom before a judge during a court appearance in London, Ontario, Canada, June 10, 2021 in this courtroom sketch. Pam Davies/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo
A courtroom sketch shows Nathaniel Veltman appearing before a judge in London, Ontario. Handout via Reuters

The sole survivor of the attack – a nine-year-old boy – remains in hospital with serious injuries.

It was the worst attack against Canadian Muslims since the 2017 mosque attack in Quebec.

So far, few details have been revealed that would shed light on why police say it was a premeditated, hate-motivated crime.

Mr Veltman is due in court again on June 21.