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Canada: suspect faces terrorism charges after Muslim family killed with truck

Canada: suspect faces terrorism charges after Muslim family killed with truck
Mourners and supporters gather for a public funeral for members of the Afzaal family at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario on Saturday in London, Canada. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Prosecutors in Canada have laid terrorism charges against a man accused of deliberately running over a Muslim family in London, Ontario, killing four members from three generations.

The prosecution said on Monday that Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism and prosecutors have upgraded those charges under Canada’s criminal code. Police allege the incident was a planned and premeditated attack targeting Muslims.

Veltman also faces one count of attempted murder due to terrorism activity. He has yet to enter a plea.

Due to a publication ban, details from the hearing in which Veltman appeared by Zoom on Monday from jail cannot be revealed.

However, provincial and federal prosecutors provided their consent to commence terrorism proceedings against him. They allege that the killings of Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, and the attempted killing of the couple’s son Fayez constituted terrorist activity, according to a statement from London police.

Canada’s 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 members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk near their home on 6 June when they were mowed down.

The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.

Saboor Khan, a friend of the family, said upgrading the charges against Veltman was “the right thing to do”.

“The family and the community has been terrorized and many of us are afraid to leave our homes,” Khan said.

A funeral for the family drew hundreds of mourners to the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario over the weekend.

Veltman’s next court date is scheduled for 21 June.

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