A man driving a pick-up truck slammed into and killed four members of a Pakistani family in the south of Canada s Ontario province, in what police said Monday was a “premeditated” attack.
A 20-year-old suspect wearing a vest “like body armor” fled the scene after the attack on Sunday evening, and was arrested at a mall seven kilometers (four miles) from the intersection in London, Ontario where it happened, said Detective Superintendent Paul Waight.
“We believe this was an intentional act and that the victims of this horrific incident were targeted,” Police Chief Steve Williams said. “We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”
The 20-year-old alleged attacker struck five people in the hit and run attack, police said.
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable — and it must stop, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter.
Witnesses told the Global News network they saw the vehicle come over the median strip and added it looked like it had come from the other side of the road.
The driver was arrested in the car park of a nearby mall and faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Detective Superintendent Paul Waight said police were consulting with the Royal Mounted Canadian Police and prosecutors on potentially filing terrorism charges.
– Who were the victims? –
Among those killed in the incident on Sunday night were a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl, police announced Monday. A 9-year-old boy was in a serious condition, but was expected to survive. The family requested the victims names not be made public.
A family friend, Zahid Khan, told the Associated Press that the four were a grandmother, father, mother and teenage daughter.
Khan said the family had immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago and were dedicated members of a local mosque.
“They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day,” he said near the site of the crash.
“This was an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims … rooted in unspeakable hatred. This act of unspeakable hatred, the act of Islamophobia, must be followed by acts of compassion,” London Mayor Ed Holder said in a statement released on Twitter.
Flags will be lowered for three days in London, where 30,000 to 40,000 Muslims live among its more than 400,000 residents, Holder said.