‘Mass murder’: Muslim family targeted, killed in attack motivated by hate, Canadian police say – USA TODAY

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A man killed four members of a Muslim family and seriously injured another with his pickup in a “planned, premeditated attack motivated by hate,” police in Canada said Monday.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested Sunday after witnesses said he struck the family of five with his vehicle while they were waiting at an intersection in London, Ontario, police said at a news conference. Veltman, a resident of London, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder and is due in court Thursday.

The victims were identified as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter, Yumna, 15; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld in a statement issued by extended family. A 9-year-old boy was hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. 

“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 their spiritual identity.”

A GoFundMe said the father was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast and his wife was working on a Ph.D n civil engineering at Western University in Ontario. Their daughter was finishing ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of the family, the page said.

The teenage girl who was killed “will be deeply missed by fellow students and staff at Oakridge Secondary School,” according to a statement from the school.

Zahid Khan, a family friend, said the family had emigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago and were dedicated, decent and generous members of the London Muslim Mosque.

“They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day,” Khan told The Associated Press through tears near the crash site.

Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London Police Department said police had not determined whether the suspect was part of a specific hate group. He did not have a criminal record. He was arrested without incident in a mall parking lot while wearing a vest that looked like body armor. He did not have any accomplices, Waight said.

Waight said London police are working with federal authorities and prosecutors to determined whether to file terrorism charges, but he declined to describe what evidence indicated the crime was motivated by hate.

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

Mayor Ed Holder said the attack was the worst mass murder the city of London had ever seen, and ordered flags outside City Hall to be lowered for three days of mourning.

“This was an act of mass murder perpetuated against Muslims,” Holder said. “It was rooted in unspeakable hatred.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “horrified” by the attack.

“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you,” Trudeau tweeted. “Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims will hold a vigil at the family’s mosque Tuesday night that will be livestreamed on social media.

Muslims in Canada have become “all too familiar with the violence of Islamophobia,” council CEO Mustafa Farooq said in a statement. In 2017, a French Canadian man known for far-right, nationalist views went on a shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque, killing six people.

“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, and should be treated as such,” Farooq said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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‘Mass murder’: Muslim family targeted, killed in attack motivated by hate, Canadian police say – USA TODAY

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