A Canadian community is in mourning after four members of a family were killed on Sunday in a premeditated attack motivated by “hatred”.
Police say a 20-year-old man dressed in “body armour” deliberately drove his truck into a Muslim family in London, Ontario, simply “because they were Muslim”.
The suspect was arrested 7km from the scene having fled after what has been described as a “planned, premeditated act motivated by hate”.
Detective Superintendent Paul Waight said there is evidence to suggest the family was targeted because of their religion.
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair described it as a “horrific act of Islamophobia”.
“They believe the family was targeted because of their faith, and that the attacker was motivated by his hatred of Muslims,” he said.
The names of the victims were not released, but they include a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl — three generations of the same family.
A nine-year-old boy was also hospitalised following the attack and is recovering.
“Let me be clear, this was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, rooted in unspeakable hatred,” said London mayor Ed Holder.
Bouquets of flowers were seen at the scene of the attack. A vigil in memory of the victims is set to take place on Tuesday at a local mosque.
The suspect, identified as Nathaniel Veltman, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Waight said local authorities are also liaising with federal police and the attorney general about adding “possible terrorism charges”.
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.
The attack took place late on Sunday, police say, when the family were out walking together.
The suspect’s black ute mounted the kerb and struck them as they waited to cross the intersection.
Waight offered few details of the investigation, but noted that the suspect’s social media postings were reviewed by police.
The attack, which brought back painful memories of a Quebec City mosque mass shooting in January 2017 and a driving rampage in Toronto that killed 10 people in April 2018, drew swift condemnation.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement it was “beyond horrified and demands justice” for the family who was just “out for a walk” on a warm spring evening.
“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and must be treated as such,” Mustafa Farooq, the council’s president, told Radio Canada.
The Muslim Association of Canada also called on authorities to “prosecute this horrific attack as an act of hate and terrorism.”
“Hate and Islamophobia have NO place in Ontario,” tweeted Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “These heinous acts of violence must stop.”
— with AFP