A 20-year-old Canadian man accused of deliberately running over five members of a Muslim family with his truck, killing four of them, now faces terrorism charges in addition to counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, prosecutors said on Monday.
Nathaniel Veltman was arrested shortly after the June 6 attack in a parking lot in London Ontario, a city west of Toronto, a short distance from the city’s oldest mosque. He was wearing what appeared to be body armour and a helmet at the time, police said.
Due to a reporting ban, details from the hearing at which Veltman appeared by Zoom yesterday from jail cannot be revealed. Veltman has not yet retained a lawyer, reports Reuters.
Provincial and federal prosecutors gave their consent to start terrorism proceedings against him, alleging that the killings of Salman Afzaal, his wife, their daughter and Afzaal’s mother, and attempted killing of the couple’s son constituted terrorist activity, according to a statement from police in London.
The 9-year-old boy – the sole survivor of the attack – was released from hospital on Monday, the London Free Press reported, citing a family friend.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reacted to the new charges afterward, saying: “It is really important for us to name it as an act of terror, and it is important for us identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada and to Canadians.”
The five members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk near their home when they were run down on the sidewalk.
It was the worst attack against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.
So far, few details have emerged that would shed light on exactly why police say the attack was a pre-meditated, hate-motivated crime.
Veltman is due in court again on June 21.
According to CBC, Veltman does not have a prior criminal history. Det Supt Paul Waight told London Free Press that Veltman “has had past interactions with other police forces, but nothing of a serious nature.”
Authorities don’t believe he knew the victims, according to the press release.
The International Business Times reported that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the tragedy a Christian “terrorist attack”.
Veltman was reportedly laughing as he got out of his blood covered truck, according to a witness. He continued to laugh until he was taken into custody in a mall parking lot, a traumatised taxi driver who witnessed the arrest said.