Police Say Attacker Targeted Canadian Muslim Family

The Afzal family was out for a walk when a truck jumped a curb and struck them, killing four and hospitalizing one child.
Posted at 12:17 PM, Jun 08, 2021

An apparent pickup truck attack that killed four members of an immigrant family in Canada drew denunciations from Pakistan's prime minister on Tuesday, who called it a deliberate act of terrorism targeting Muslims. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that Sunday's attack reveals the growing Islamophobia in western countries.

Canadian authorities said they were investigating potential terrorism charges against the 20-year-old man who was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall after a black pickup truck mounted a curb and struck the victims at an intersection in the Ontario city of London.

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. A hospitalized boy was identified as Fayez.

"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."

Friends said the family had migrated to Canada 14 years ago. A fundraising web page said the father was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast and his wife was working on a Ph.D. in civil engineering at Western University in London. Their daughter was finishing ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of the family, the page said.

The family said in its statement that the public needs to stand against hate and Islamophobia.

"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 said.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was facing four counts of first-degree murder. Police said Veltman, a resident of London, did not know the victims.

Detective Supt. Paul Waight said police had not determined if the suspect was a member of any specific hate group. He said London police were working with federal police and prosecutors to see about potential terrorism charges. He declined to detail evidence pointing to a possible hate crime, but said the attack was planned.

Many placed flowers around a light pole and a nearby tree where the truck hopped the curb onto the sidewalk. A vigil was scheduled for Tuesday night at the mosque the family attended.

Rauf Ahmad and three friends watched the growing tribute on the corner.

“I didn’t think there was racism in Canada and I felt very safe when I came here two years ago, but I do not feel safe now,” Ahmad said. “Humanity is first, we should not care about whether someone is a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian.”

Canada is generally welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but in 2017 a French Canadian man known for far-right, nationalist views went on a shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press