Four killed in 'targeted' attack on Muslims in Canada's Ontario

Police say victims were from the same family and the attacker hit them with a pick-up truck

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Members of three generations of a Muslim family have been killed in the Canadian city of London, Ontario, in what police are calling a “targeted” attack.

“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.

“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”

A police car passes the location where a family of five was hit by a driver, in London, Ontario, Monday, June 7, 2021. Four of the members of the family died and one is in critical condition. A 20-year-old male has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and count of attempted murder in connection with the crime. (Brett Gundlock/The Canadian Press via AP)

Police said Nathaniel Veltman, 20, used a black pick-up truck to jump a kerb and strike five members of the same family late Sunday evening.

A woman in her 70s, a man and woman in their 40s, and a girl, 15, were killed in the attack.

A child, 9, struck by the vehicle is in hospital with serious injuries.

Police arrested the suspected driver of the pick-up truck about seven kilometres from the scene of the crime.

Veltman has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

"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.”

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 driver, who police say was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time of his arrest, appeared in court by video on Monday afternoon.

"This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and should be treated as such,” said Mustafa Farooq, chief executive of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“We call on the government to prosecute the attacker to the fullest extent of the law, including considering terrorist charges.”

The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.