Canada is mourning the merciless cold-blooded murder of four members of the same family of Pakistan origin. A 9-year-old boy is fighting for his life after 20 years old Islamophobe Nathaniel Veltman crushed his family with his truck on June 6.
The family was waiting at an intersection in the city of London on Sunday evening when a driver intentionally mounted the curb and struck them, killing four, because of their Islamic faith, Canadian officials said.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” said Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London Police. “There is no known previous connection between the suspect and the victims.”
“This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Treadeu while condemning the attack. “Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence,” he added.
Relatives identified the victims as Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, daughter Yumna Salman, 15, and her 74-year-old grandmother. The couple’s nine-year-old boy, Fayez, is in hospital with serious injuries. Local police investigators said Nathaniel intentionally targeted the victims because of their Muslim faith. London’s mayor Ed Holder called it an act of “mass murder.”
Police arrested Nathaniel Veltman at a mall about seven kilometers from the carnage shortly after the driver sped off from the scene. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
Prime Minister Treadau called the London Mayor and local Muslim community leader Nawaz Tahir to extend his condolences and discuss ways to stop and control such acts of violence in the future.
While Canadian police are investigating and political leadership promising justice, few in the Muslim community are raising fears that the attacker will escape justice. “The media and politicians are responsible to create hatred among religion and races. The Radicalization of ideology, differences, religion is harmful and we are again heading towards dark ages. All people should strongly be condemned and act against all hate crimes and terror attacks. I wonder if the charges will stick or if he’ll be labeled as a “mentally disturbed” individual in need of psychiatric assistance. Shame on you.” wrote Meena Khan on the “Pakistani Canadian” Facebook page.
Community organizations minced few words to condemn the attack and demand justice. “We are heartbroken, shattered and devastated by the shocking news of a terror attack on a Muslim family (of Pakistani descent) in London, Ontario, by a 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman that resulted in the uncalled death of three adults and one teen while critically injuring a young boy…,” said Sadaf Ebrahim, president of Canada Pakistan Association of National Capital Region. In a statement, she demanded of law enforcement agencies to serve justice to the family of the victims.
Sana Yasir, a friend of the family, confirmed she had been in touch with Afzaal’s brother and sister-in-law and released a statement on their behalf. “We need to understand that the destruction of a family in the brutal and horrific manner like this is something we must all stand against,” the statement reads. “We need to stand against hate and Islamophobia and raise awareness in our communities and throughout all political spectrum.” she said the family was well known within the local Pakistani community.
“They were the most loving, caring and genuine family and would always greet you with a smile,” she said. Two online fundraisers for the surviving boy more than 800,000 dollars by Tuesday evening.
The mood in London, a city of over 300,000 residents, in southwestern Onatrio, was somber. The local communities have been organizing vigils to pay tributes to the victims who lost their lives because of their faith. Dozens of people went out to the scene of the attack on Monday night to pay tribute. They cried, hugged and placed flowers around a light pole and a nearby tree, a meter from where the speeding truck hopped the curb.
Politicians across Canada and beyond have also condemned the attack, with many calling it an act of terror.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, condemned the incident on Twitter, saying it reveals “the growing Islamophobia in Western countries.”
The country’s foreign affairs minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, expressed sympathy for the relatives of the victims and hope for the child’s recovery.
The group Independent Jewish Voices Stands expressed solidarity with Canadian Muslims, calling the attack “beyond horrific.”
“We must name Islamophobia and white supremacy when they occur, and take real steps to end the normalization of both in Canadian culture,” Davita Guslits, a member of the group in London, said in a statement. “Attacks like these do not occur in a vacuum.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford similarly said the “horrific and deliberate attack on a Muslim family” had left the province in mourning. Ford said all government events had been canceled for the day.