Canadian man found guilty of fatally running over four members of Muslim family

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A 22-year-old self-confessed Canadian white nationalist who deliberately ran over and killed four members of a Muslim family in his truck in 2021 was found guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday.

The killings shocked Canada, a country that encourages mass immigration and takes pride in its multiculturalism.

The jury took around six hours to convict Nathaniel Veltman, who attacked the family in the Ontario town of London. He faces life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.

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Prosecutors argued the attack was an act of terrorism, noting Veltman had written a manifesto entitled “A White Awakening” in which he outlined hatred of Islam and opposition to mass immigration and multiculturalism.

Five members of the Afzaal family, originally from Pakistan, were out for an evening walk in June 2021 when Veltman ran over them with his truck on the sidewalk.

The victims were Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah, and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother Talat.

The couple’s nine-year-old son suffered serious injuries. Veltman, who shortly after the assault admitted “I did it. I killed those people,” was also found guilty of one charge of attempted murder.

It was the worst attack against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

“While this represents an important step towards closure for the Muslim community, and our city at large, it is by no means the end of that journey,” London mayor Josh Morgan said in a social media post.

Veltman lawyer Christopher Hicks told reporters his client was shocked but did not say whether there would be an appeal.

Veltman pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder. His defense, citing what it called Veltman’s mental challenges, said the actions amounted to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

In the manifesto, Veltman wrote “I am a white nationalist” and said white people were “facing genocide”. Prosecutors said he also repeatedly watched the video of a mass shooting by a white supremacist in New Zealand which killed 51 people.

In a social media post, the National Council of Canadian Muslims said it was relieved by the verdict and added: “We have to reflect deeply on the violent Islamophobia that has gripped our country”.

Canada has experienced a sharp rise in hate crimes targeting religion, sexual orientation and race since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said last year.

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