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Canadian man charged over Toronto van attack in which 10 people were killed

Alek Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of premeditated murder.

Police at the scene in Toronto after a van mounted a path, crashing into a number of pedestrians
Police at the scene in Toronto after a van mounted a path, crashing into a number of pedestrians
Image: Aaron Vincent Elkaim via AP

A MAN HAS been charged over an incident in Toronto yesterday in which 10 people died after a van was driven onto a busy path, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged a rattled nation not to live in fear after the “senseless attack”.

Police said the suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was not known to them before yesterday’s carnage in Canada’s most populous city, which also left 15 people injured.

He also was not in the crosshairs of intelligence and security agencies, leading Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to sideline the theory of a terror attack such as those carried out by extremists in London, Nice and other major cities.

“On the basis of all available information at the present time, there would appear to be no national security connection to this particular incident,” Goodale said.

But authorities said the incident during the busy lunch hour yesterday was undoubtedly deliberate, and Minassian – his head shaved, and in a white police jumpsuit – was charged with first-degree murder in a brief court appearance.

He also faces multiple counts of attempted murder over those injured in the incident.

Two South Koreans were among the dead, a foreign ministry official in Seoul told AFP, adding that another of the country’s citizens seriously injured.

As the wounded recovered in local hospitals, federal, provincial and local investigators were probing the case, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

“Canadians across the country are shocked and saddened by this senseless attack,” Trudeau told a news conference.

“We must not start living in fear and uncertainty every day as we go about our daily lives.”

The incident

For 30 minutes, panic struck along the nearly kilometre-long stretch of Yonge Street where the driver had jumped the curb onto the sidewalk.

“He was going really fast,” witness Alex Shaker told CTV television.

“All I could see was just people one by one getting knocked out, knocked out, one by one,” Shaker said.

“There are so many people lying down on the streets.”

Today, police continued to comb the crime scene for evidence, while crowds gathered at a makeshift memorial to leave messages of condolences and flowers.

“We must remain a country that is open and free and comfortable with its values, and we will continue to do that,” Trudeau said.

Officials will “reflect on the changing situations in which we are in, and do everything we can to keep Canadians safe,” he added.

Ireland’s reaction

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon has condemned yesterday’s fatal incident in Toronto.

“I unreservedly condemn what appears to have been a deliberate attempt to kill and injure as many people as possible,” Coveney said.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to the people of Canada at this most difficult of times.

“I know that the people of Canada, and of Toronto in particular, will be filled with shock and with sadness today. I want them to know that Ireland stands with the people of Toronto and with the people of Canada,” he said.

© AFP 2018 with reporting by Hayley Halpin

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