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Canada: Man charged with terrorism for truck attack that killed Muslim family

Prosecutors say the 20-year-old suspect will face terrorism charges in addition to counts of premeditated murder
Funeral for Muslim family killed in truck-attack in Canada (AFP)
Mourners and supporters gather in London, Canada on 12 June 2021 for a public funeral for members of the Afzaal family, who were run over by a truck in a racist attack (AFP)

A Canadian man who is 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, 20, was arrested shortly after the attack on 6 June in a parking lot in London, Ontario, 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.

Four members of the family - Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and Salman's mother Talat, 74 - were waiting to cross the road when the incident took place.

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The couple's nine-year-old son, Fayez, survived the attack but was left seriously injured. 

Due to a publication ban, details from a hearing in which Veltman appeared by Zoom on Monday from jail cannot be revealed. Veltman has not yet retained a lawyer.

"The federal and provincial attorneys general provided their consent to commence terrorism proceedings, alleging that the murders and attempted murder also constitute terrorism activity," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement. 

Veltman, who has no criminal record or known links to terrorist groups, has not entered his plea and is set to reappear in court later this month. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the attack and said last week in an impassioned speech that "the killing was no accident". 

"This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our known communities," Trudeau said in a speech to Canada's House of Commons.

This latest incident has fuelled debate inside Canada over the prevalence of Islamophobia.

It was also the deadliest attack against Muslims in Canada since a shooting inside a mosque in Quebec City that killed six people in 2017.