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Canadian man accused of slamming truck into Muslim family, killing four people, appears before court

A nine-year-old boy orphaned in the ramming suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

n this artist's sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ontario
n this artist's sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ontario
Image: Alexandra Newbould via PA Images

A CANADIAN MAN accused of slamming his pick-up truck into a Muslim family in London, Ontario, killing four people, made a brief court appearance today.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, appeared by videoconference at the hearing to sort out his legal representation. A new court date was set for 14 June.

The young man, who has never been convicted of a crime and has no known extremist group affiliations, has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

A nine-year-old boy orphaned in the ramming suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

If found guilty, Veltman faces life imprisonment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the attack on a family out for a Sunday evening stroll a “terrorist attack”.

London police, meanwhile, are consulting with federal police and the attorney general about adding possible terror charges.

Detective Superintendent Paul Waight, who is leading the investigation, said on Monday there was evidence “that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate”.

“It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” he told a news conference.

At about 8.40pm on Sunday (12.40am Monday Irish time), according to police, the Afzaal family was walking along a sidewalk when a black 2016 Dodge Ram truck “mounted the curb and struck” them.

The suspect fled the scene and was arrested a few miles away.

Sunday’s deadly attack was the second in recent years targeting Muslims in Canada, bruising its long reputation for tolerance. A 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque that claimed six lives was at the time the worst attack on Muslims in the West.

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The killing on Sunday of three generations of what friends said was a “model family” has sparked sadness and anger among Canadian Muslims, and a renewed sense of solidarity with the community, which has called for actions to stem Islamophobia.

On Tuesday evening, thousands of mourners including Trudeau and other political leaders gathered for a vigil at the intersection where it happened.

A funeral for the victims – 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal – is scheduled for 1.30pm (5.30pm Irish time) on Saturday.

The couple’s son, Fayez, is recovering in hospital.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2021

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