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'This was no accident': Trudeau calls killing of Muslim family a terrorist attack

Driver deliberately mounted the curb and ran over a family, killing four, with a nine-year-old boy the only survivor
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was 'horrified' by what he described as an 'act of hatred' that left four Muslim family members dead (AFP/File photo)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau labelled the killing of four members of a Muslim family, who were run down by a man driving a pick-up truck, as a "terrorist attack", which he said was carried out with "Islamophobic" intentions.

Speaking to members of parliament at the start of Tuesday's House of Commons session, Trudeau decried the "brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence".

"Lately, a lot of Canadians have been enjoying evening walks to get a bit of fresh air after long days at home during this pandemic. On Sunday, in London, Ontario, that's what a grandmother, two parents, and two children went out to do… But unlike every other night, this family never made it home," Trudeau said. 

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"Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities," he continued.

On Sunday, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman deliberately slammed his pick-up truck into a Muslim family in London, Ontario, as they were waiting to cross the road.

A statement released by the family identified the victims as Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna.

Salman's 77-year-old mother was also killed, but her name has not been released.

London police chief Steve Williams told reporters that the family was specifically targeted "because of their Islamic faith".

'Stand against Islamophobia'

In a statement on Tuesday, the victims' family called on Canadians to stand against hate and Islamophobia.

"The young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group that he associated with, and the rest of the community must take a strong stand against this," the statement read.

"We need to stand against hate and Islamophobia and raise awareness in our communities and across all the political spectrum," it added.

The Muslim Association of Canada has called on authorities to "prosecute this horrific attack as an act of hate and terrorism".

Veltman, who was wearing a vest "like body armor", was arrested at a mall seven kilometres from the intersection where the attack happened.

Muslim communities in Canada are still reeling from a January 2017 mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that killed six Muslim men and injured several others.

Lawmakers in the House of Commons also condemned the attack as an act of "Islamophobia".

"The reality is our Canada is a place of racism, of violence, of genocide of indigenous people, and our counties, a place where Muslims aren't safe, they aren't," said Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrat Party.