Islamabad/Toronto: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday denounced the killing of four members of a Pakistani-origin Canadian family in Canada, saying this “act of terrorism” reveals the growing “Islamophobia” in Western countries.
On Sunday, a 20-year-old man, wearing a vest like body armour, slammed a pickup truck into a Pakistani family of five, killing four of them, in what police allege was “a planned, premeditated act motivated by hate”, according to media reports from Canada.
The incident happened near the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road when the Muslim family was out for a walk in the evening, the Toronto Star reported.
A black pickup truck driven by Nathaniel Veltman mounted the curb of a busy London intersection and struck a family of five as they waited to cross the street. The driver sped off, leaving a scene of chaos and tragedy, the report said.
Afzaal, 46, his wife, Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter, Yumnah Afzaal. Syed Afzaals 74-year-old mother, whose name has not been confirmed, also died. Their 9-year-old son, Faez Afzaal, is in the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The family immigrated from Pakistan about 14 years ago, according to media reports.
Witness Paige Martin told reporters a black truck blasted past her and ran a red light as she was walking, and then she came upon the scene and saw “chaos”: “It was just absolutely like something that you never want to see.” The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.
Veltman was arrested five minutes later, seven kilometres away from the scene. Reacting to the incident, Prime Minister Khan tweeted, “Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophobia needs to be countered holistically by the international community.”
3 generations Pakistani-Canadians killed for their faith
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also took to Twitter to condemn the incident, saying three generations of Pakistani-Canadians had been killed for their faith.
“3 generations of Pakistani-Canadians were killed in a brutal act of mass murder for their Muslim faith. This is an act of terror rooted in unspeakable hatred & Islamophobia. Extend our deepest sympathy to the family members & pray for the recovery of the only survivor; a little boy,” he tweeted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he was ‘horrified’ by the attack.
‘To the loved ones of those who were terrorised by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you,’ he said, singling out the nine-year-old in hospital.
‘To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable ‘” and it must stop,’ he added.
Detective Superintendent at London Police Service Paul Waight said that the ‘investigators believe that this was an intentional act and that the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”
‘There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate.’ Just hours into the investigation, police called the deaths both horrific and ‘intentional’ Waight also said that the suspect wore a vest similar to body armour during the incident on Sunday and that potential terrorism charges are being considered, the CTV News reported.
London police will be working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on possible terrorism charges, Waight told reporters.