Man charged with terrorism for deadly truck attack on Canada Muslims

by AFP

OTTAWA, CANADA – Canada is pressing terrorism charges against a man accused of mowing down a Muslim family with a pickup truck, killing four, prosecutors said Monday.

Five members of the Afzaal family were out for a walk in London, Ontario — around 125 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of Toronto — on June 6, when a truck driver struck them on purpose, according to authorities.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and Salman’s mother Talat, 74, were all killed. The couple’s nine-year-old son Fayez survived, but was seriously injured.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said the killings were “a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred.”

Prosecutors revealed in a brief hearing Monday that they were adding terrorism charges to the four counts of premeditated murder and one of attempted murder leveled last week against 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman.

“The federal and provincial attorneys general provided their consent to commence terrorism proceedings, alleging that the murders and the attempted murder also constitute terrorist activity,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said in a statement after the hearing.

Veltman, who has no criminal record and no known link to any extremist group, told the court via video link that he does not have a lawyer. He has yet to enter a plea and is set to reappear in court on June 21.

Several Canadian media outlets revealed on Monday that Fayez Afzaal had been able to leave hospital, and was being taken care of by relatives.

He was “expected to recover —- it’s going to be some time,” relative Saboor Khan told CBC News.

“His family’s main priority is to support him through that recovery.”

Last week, during an impassioned speech at the House of Commons, Trudeau said: “This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities.”

“I think it is really important for us to name it as an act of terror,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference Monday.

“It is important for us to identify this as an act of Islamophobia, and it is important for us to identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada, and to Canadians.”

The attack has fueled debate about the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canada, and heightened fears within the Muslim community that outward signs of religious affiliation can make a person a target.

It was the deadliest anti-Muslim attack in Canada since a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that had killed six people in 2017.