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A man is accused of jumping a curb with his pickup truck and intentionally mowing down and killing members of a Muslim family in Canada, leaving four people dead and one hospitalized.
Authorities aren’t mincing words: The crime is an act of hate. On Sunday, Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested at a nearby mall parking lot, where authorities found him wearing something resembling a tactical vest. The arrest came after Veltman allegedly aimed for the Muslim family of five in his vehicle.
Among the dead are Salman Afzal, 46, his wife, Madiha, 44, their daughter, Yumna, 15, and Salman’s 74-year-old mother. the couple's son, Fayez, 9, is being treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
“This was a terrorist attack,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “If anyone thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: How do we explain such violence to a child in a hospital? How can we look families in the eye and say 'Islamophobia isn’t real'"?
Trudeau took to his official Twitter page, saying in par, “…we’ll continue to combat Islamophobia – and we’ll be here for those who are grieving.”
London, Ontario Mayor Ed Holder mirrored the sentiment by saying that the crime was “rooted in unspeakable hatred.”
The victims’ family is urging the community to stand against hate and Islamophobia.
A GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $300k of its $500k goal, states that the “horrific nature” of the crimes “serves as a reminder of the long shadow of Islamophobia that is cast on the lives of peaceful Muslim families across the world.”
The Afzal family had immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 14 years ago. Salman Afzal was a physiotherapist, and his wife was working towards her Ph.D. in civil engineering at Western University.
Investigators have not determined whether or not Veltman was associated with a hate group, though they believed he acted alone, according to the New York Post.
Veltman has no previous criminal record.
In London, Ontario, investigators have enlisted the help of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and have discussed bringing the accused man up on terrorist charges.
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you,” Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted. “Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable - and it must stop.”
] Veltman, a local resident, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
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