Pak PM Imran expresses grief over killing of Pak-origin family in Canada, terms it 'act of terrorism'

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday denounced the killing of four members of a Pakistani-origin family in Canada, saying this “act of terrorism” reveals the growing “Islamophobia” in Western countries.

On Sunday, a 20-year-old man, wearing a vest like body armour, slammed a pickup truck into a Pakistani family of five, killing four of them, in what police allege was “a planned, premeditated act motivated by hate”, according to the reports in the Canadian media.

The incident happened near the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road when the Muslim family was out for a walk in the evening, the Toronto Star reported.

A black pickup truck driven by Nathaniel Veltman mounted the curb of a busy London intersection and struck the family of five as they waited to cross the street. The driver sped off, leaving a scene of chaos and tragedy, the report said.

Veltman was arrested five minutes later, seven kilometres away from the scene.

Reacting to the incident, Prime Minister Khan tweeted, “Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophobia needs to be countered holistically by the international community.”

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also took to Twitter to condemn the incident, saying three generations of Pakistani-Canadians had been killed for their faith.

“3 generations of Pakistani-Canadians were killed in a brutal act of mass murder for their Muslim faith. This is an act of terror rooted in unspeakable hatred & Islamophobia. Extend our deepest sympathy to the family members & pray for the recovery of the only survivor; a little boy,” he tweeted.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said in a separate statement this tragic incident was yet another manifestation of the systematic rise in Islamophobia.

“We strongly condemn the Islamophobic incident that resulted in the tragic death of four family members of Pakistani origin, in London, Ontario. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” it said.

The Foreign office said that the High Commission for Pakistan in Ottawa and the Consulate General in Toronto were in close contact with the relevant Canadian authorities to ascertain the facts of the case and to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous act were brought to justice.

“Our Consul General in Toronto also visited the family of the deceased to offer sympathies and condolences and all possible assistance,” it said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he was “horrified” by the attack.

“To the loved ones of those who were terrorised by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you,” he said, singling out the nine-year-old in hospital.

“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,” he added.

Pakistan’s Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry told the media that Prime Minister Khan, while chairing a Cabinet meeting, warned of rising Islamophobia in the west.

Detective Superintendent at London Police Service Paul Waight said that the “investigators believe that this was an intentional act and that the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”

“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate.” Just hours into the investigation, police called the deaths both horrific and “intentional” Waight also said that the suspect wore a vest similar to body armour during the incident on Sunday and that potential terrorism charges are being considered, the CTV News reported.

London police will be working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on possible terrorism charges, Waight told reporters.