Canada van massacre driver charged with murder, most victims women

A Canadian man who apparently had a grudge against women was charged with murder Tuesday after allegedly plowing a rented van onto a crowded Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people - an incident that shocked the nation.

Police said the suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was not known to them before Monday's carnage in Canada's most populous city, which also left 14 people injured. Most of the victims were women.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale played down any suggestion that the attack bore the hallmarks of those carried out by truck-driving extremists in London, Nice and other cities, saying "there is no discernable connection to national security."

But authorities said the incident during the busy lunch hour Monday was undoubtedly deliberate.

Lead investigator Detective-Sergeant Graham Gibson said Minassian had posted a "cryptic message on Facebook minutes before he began driving the rented van" along a long stretch of Yonge Street, eventually jumping the curb onto the sidewalk.

In the post, Minassian praised mass killer Elliot Rodger - a 22-year-old American who murdered six people and then killed himself in California in 2014, and who had professed frustration over his virginity and women rejecting him.

The suspect's post also referred to the "Incel Rebellion" - "incel" is short for "involuntarily celibate" and is often used in connection with online groups of sexually frustrated men who are known to rant against women.

Gibson said the victims of the Toronto attack were "predominantly women" and ranged in age from the mid-20s to 80s.

Minassian also referred to himself on social media as a private in the army. Canadian military spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande confirmed that he enlisted last August but asked to be discharged after only 16 days of basic training.

A shaven-headed Minassian appeared in court early Tuesday to hear the charges against him - 10 counts of premeditated murder and 13 of attempted murder. A 14th count of attempted murder was pending after the toll of injured was revised down.

Minassian stood impassively with his hands behind his back, wearing a white police jumpsuit. He was calm as he was led away.

The suspect is scheduled to return to court on May 10 for a bail hearing.

Van plows into Toronto crowd in 'deliberate' act, leaving 10 dead

At least 10 people have died after a man plowed a white rental van into a crowd of pedestrians in Canada's biggest city Toronto on Monday, in what police dubbed a "deliberate" attack.

The incident took place in broad daylight around 16 kilometers (10 miles) from a conference center hosting a meeting of G7 ministers, but officials said they had no evidence of a link to the event.

"The actions definitely looked deliberate," Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told journalists.

Ralph Goodale, the minister of public security, added that "on the basis of all available information at the present time, there would appear to be no national security connection to this particular incident."

"Horrible day in Toronto," he had posted earlier on Twitter. "Senseless violence takes heavy toll."

Police arrested a suspect at the scene - who police identified later as 25-year-old Alek Minassian from a northern Toronto suburb - of the attack, whose initial death toll of nine jumped to 10 after one person succumbed to injuries.

Fifteen people remained in hospitals throughout the city, Saunders said, adding that local, provincial and federal investigators were probing the case.

At the scene, at least three bodies could be seen under orange sheets and a long stretch of road was sealed off with police incident tape.

The suspect and a police officer faced off, their guns drawn. The suspect eventually surrendered his weapon and was taken into custody.

Vehicle attacks have been carried out to deadly effect by extremists in a number of capitals and major cities, including London, Paris, New York and Nice.

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the G7 meeting would continue as planned into Tuesday, with officials discussing ways to secure democratic societies from foreign interference.

"The work of the ministers obviously goes on. This is a very sad day for the people of Toronto and the people of Canada," she said.

'Really fast'

Officers were called to the scene - on Yonge Street at the corner with Finch Avenue - around 1:30 pm (1730 GMT), police said.

A white rental van with a dented front bumper was stopped on the sidewalk of a major intersection, surrounded by police vehicles.

"He was going really fast," witness Alex Shaker told CTV television.

"All I could see was just people one by one getting knocked out, one by one," Shaker said. "There are so many people lying down on the streets."

Another witness, Jamie Eopni, told local Toronto television station CP24: "It was crashing into everything. It destroyed a bench. If anybody was on that street, they would have been hit on the sidewalk."

'Deliberate' but no terror link

Though the act seemed "deliberate," officials did not identify a terror link.

Canada has only rarely been the scene of terror attacks.

In October, a man stabbed a police officer in the western city of Edmonton before slamming his van into a group of pedestrians, hurting four people.

And in Quebec in October 2014, a Canadian man ran over two soldiers in a parking lot with his car, killing one of them. The driver was shot dead by police when he attacked them with a knife.

In March 2016, a Canadian who claimed to have radical Islamist sympathies attacked two soldiers at a military recruitment center in Toronto.

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