Police in Canada said four members of a Muslim family were killed in a “premeditated” truck attack on Sunday.
The attack took place in London, Ontario. The family’s only survivor, a nine-year-old child, is being treated in a hospital for serious injuries.
Authorities have charged a 20-year-old Canadian man with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
It is the worst attack on Canadian Muslims since the killing of six people at a Quebec mosque in 2017.
At a news conference, Detective Director Paul White said: “We believe these victims were targeted because they were Muslims.”
He said police were looking into possible terrorism charges, adding that it was believed to be a hate crime.
What are the details?
The victims are two women, aged 74 and 44, a 46-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. Their names were not mentioned at the request of the family. Police said a nine-year-old was in hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Police identified the suspect as Nathaniel Feltman, a 20-year-old from London. He was arrested in a shopping center 6 km from the crime scene.
The director of investigations said that it was not yet known if the suspect had any connection to any specific hate groups.
“There is no known prior relationship between the suspect and the victims,” he added, adding that the suspect was wearing a jacket that looked “like body armor.”
Officials said the weather was fine and visibility was good when the black truck was seen climbing onto the curb on Hyde Park Road at about 20:40 local time on Sunday.
One witness told CTV News that she had to cover her young daughter’s eyes so she wouldn’t see the bodies.
Another witness told the channel that the scene was “chaotic”.
“There were people everywhere running,” Paige Martin said. She added, “Citizens were trying to direct emergency vehicles to the scene of the accident. There were a lot of signs, screaming and waving arms.”
According to a 2016 census, the city of London – about 200 kilometers southwest of Toronto – is becoming increasingly diverse. The census concluded that one in five of its residents was born outside Canada. Arabs are the largest minority in the region, followed by those with roots in South Asia.
How did the reactions come?
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was among those mourning the victims, tweeting that “hate and Islamophobia have no place in Ontario.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet that he was “horrified” by the news.
“To the loved ones of those terrorized by yesterday’s act of hate, we are here for you,” he wrote.
“This was an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, out of unspeakable hatred,” said Ed Holder, Mayor of the City of London.
Mayor Holder said in a statement that he spoke “on behalf of all Londoners when I say our hearts are broken”.
“We mourn for the family, of which three generations have now died,” he added.
The mayor’s statement added that he had ordered the flags to be lowered outside the City of London in mourning for a period of three days.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement that the attacker should face terrorism charges.
“It is said that a man got into his car and saw a Muslim family walking in the street and decided that they did not deserve to live,” said Mustafa Farooq, chief executive of the organisation.
“He did not know them,” he said in his statement. “This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and must be treated as such.”
“These are innocent people who were killed just because they were Muslims,” Nawaz Tahir, a lawyer from the city and a representative of the Muslim community, said during the police press conference.
He added, “We will stand strong against Islamophobia. We will stand strong against terrorism with faith, love and pursuit of justice.”
He concluded by saying: “Hate will not overshadow the light of love.”