Man accused of anti-Muslim attack in Canada appears in court

Nathaniel Veltman faces multiple murder charges after taking his pickup truck to a Muslim family.

A man accused of crushing a Muslim family with his pickup truck in what Canadian police are calling a hate-motivated attack appeared briefly by Zoom before a judge on Thursday and returned early next week.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested on Sunday in a London, Ontario, mall parking lot a short walk from the city’s oldest mosque. Police said he was wearing an armored vest and a helmet at the time.

Veltman, who will next appear in court on Monday, faces four counts of first-degree murder and one attempted murder.

People pray during a vigil in honor of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Police said Veltman had no links to any hate group, but said they were still investigating and terror charges were being considered.

London Police Chief Steve Williams told Canadian Broadcasting Corp that too little information was being made public to guarantee the integrity of the judicial process.

“We have to protect the information to ensure that the court process is untainted by anything we have now done or said,” Williams said.

Four members of a family of three generations were killed when they were hit by a truck that had gone for an evening walk near the house.

The relatives have identified the deceased as 46-year-old Salman Afzal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, his 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and their 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzal. The couple’s son, nine-year-old Fayaz, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.

Hassan Sehilghi, president of a taxi firm, said “the front of the pick-up truck was badly damaged” and covered in blood, recalling details provided by one of its drivers at the time of the arrest.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lays flowers at a vigil outside the London Muslim Mosque [Nathan Denette/Pool via Reuters]

Swehilaghi said the suspect was dragged out of a truck by the police, shouting slogans, but his words were unclear. Veltman yelled at the taxi driver for filming the arrest.

“He was enjoying the scene, as if it was important to him to record,” Svehilaghi said.

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the killings a “terrorist attack” and promised to crack down on far-right groups and online hate.

“I was deeply shocked and horrified to hear about the unspeakable crime committed last weekend,” Mark Veltman, the father of the accused attacker, said in an email on Thursday.

“There are not enough words to properly express my deep sorrow for the victims of this senseless act,” he said.

Little is known about Veltman’s life.

Veltman worked part-time at an egg-packing plant in Strathroy, Ontario, near London. Neighbors in his downtown London apartment said he could often be heard playing video games at high volumes late at night, the London Free Press reports. London is roughly halfway between Toronto and Detroit.

Sunday’s incident was the worst attack against Canadian Muslims since a man shot six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest body of Muslim-majority countries with a membership of 57 countries strongly condemned what it described as a “heinous terrorist run-over by an extremist” against a Muslim family in Canada.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation called on officials to take necessary preventive measures to address anti-Muslim hatred, which it said is spreading in many countries where Muslims are a minority. In its statement issued on Thursday, the OIC renewed its call to the United Nations and other global bodies to declare March 15 a day against Islamophobia and intolerance of Muslims.


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