Canadian police announced Monday that four members of a Muslim family were killed and a fifth, a 9-year-old boy, was injured in a “deliberate” attack on Sunday night in the province of Ontario, where a young man ran over them with his pickup while they were standing on the sidewalk, likely motivated by his hatred of Muslims.
The attack took place in the small city of London in the south of the province, and the perpetrator fled, but the police soon arrested him.
Police said the suspect, 20-year-old Nathaniel Feltman, was arrested in a shopping center seven kilometers from the scene of the attack.
On Monday, the detainee was charged with four counts of premeditated murder and a fifth count of attempted murder.
They were targeted because they are Muslims
“There is evidence that it was a deliberate and planned act of hate. We believe the victims were targeted because they were Muslims. There is no known connection between the suspect and the victims,” said Paul White, a city police investigator.
The victims, whose names have not been published, are an elderly woman (74 years), a man (46 years), a woman (44 years) and a girl (15 years) who represent three generations of one family, said Ed Holder, the city’s mayor.
The injured child, a nine-year-old boy, was taken to the hospital and is recovering.
“Let’s be clear, this is a mass murder carried out against Muslims, against Londoners,” Holder said, denouncing “indescribable hate.”
She added that the attack took place around 20:40 pm Sunday (00:40 am Monday GMT) when the five family members were standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross the intersection when “a black pickup truck climbed onto the sidewalk and ran over them.”
White did not give many details about the investigation, but indicated that police were reviewing the suspect’s social media posts.
He added that the suspect was wearing what appeared to be a “bulletproof vest” at the time of his arrest.
The investigator said that local authorities are discussing with the federal police and the attorney general the possibility of bringing “terrorism charges” against the accused.
The police confirmed that the accused is not a criminal and has no known affiliation with any specific group.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to denounce the “horrific” attack.
“To the relatives of those horrified by yesterday’s act of hate, we are here for you, also with all our hearts to the child who is still in hospital and thinking about him as he recovers,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
“There is no place for Islamophobia in any of our societies. This hatred is malicious and despicable – and it must end,” he added.
In turn, the National Council of Canadian Muslims said it was “more than appalling and demanding justice after the horrific hate car attack targeting a Muslim family in London, Ontario, who was out for a walk Sunday evening.”
“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and it must be dealt with as such,” Radio Canada quoted council head Mustafa Farouk as saying.
The council also called on the authorities to consider “this horrific attack an act of hatred and terrorism.”
This operation revived the painful memories of the armed attack that targeted worshipers in a mosque in Quebec in early 2017, and was the worst attack on an Islamic religious center in the West, until the armed attack that targeted two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.
In 2019, Bissonnette was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of release for 40 years, but the court later granted the possibility of obtaining conditional release after serving at least 25 years behind bars.
The Canadian Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals against the decision to reduce this minimum prison term.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims noted that “since the Quebec mosque shootings in January 2017, hate crimes have increased” in Canada, calling for tougher laws to “criminalize Islamophobia”.
The attack in the small town of Ontario on Sunday night also brought back to Canadians the memory of the ramming attack carried out by a pickup truck in April 2018 in Toronto, a man who initially claimed to be a member of the Insel movement (unintentionally celibate), during which 10 pedestrians were killed.
Alec Minassian, 28, was convicted of the attack and is currently awaiting his sentence.
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