Toronto, April 24 (IANS) Ten persons have been killed and 15 injured after a man ploughed a rental van through pedestrians on a city sidewalk here. The driver was arrested after a tense standoff with police.
The incident occurred around 1.30 p.m. on Monday when the van driver mounted the sidewalk of city’s famous Yonge Street and ploughed over people enjoying the first sunny day of spring.
He sped over a two-kilometre stretch till his van hit a bus shelter. The entire stretch presented a ghastly scene as bodies, debris and items of clothing lay scattered on it.
The van driver has been identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian from the city outskirts’ Richmond Hill. Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders though said he was not ruling out anything at the stage. He said the killer was not known to the city police.
“There’s nothing on our files. There’s nothing that we have on him right now. It (the accident) looks intentional and as a result 10 people are now not with us,” said Saunders. Police said that the incident appeared deliberate but no motive was clear.
During the chase, when a lone police officer pointing a gun at the driver asked him to surrender, the suspect told him that he had a gun.
As the police officer shouted: “Get down, get down or you will be shot,” the suspect said: “Kill me.” However, he soon surrendered. He was due in court.
This is the worst incident of mass killing in the city’s history. In a press conference later, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale ruled out any terror links. The incident does “not appear to be connected to any national security concerns”, he said.
Canadian broadcaster CBC cited government officials as saying Minassian was not associated with any known terror groups.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident a “senseless attack and a horrific tragedy”. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Trudeau praised the police officers involved, who he said “faced danger without a moment of hesitation”.
Minassian had previously attended a school for students with special needs in north Toronto, former classmates said.
Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party, the Leader of Opposition, said: “Tragic news coming out of Toronto – my thoughts are with all those affected by the horrific events…”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker mourned the victims, saying: “I send my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, as well as to Prime Minister Trudeau and to all Canadians.”
The incident took place about 29 km from the city centre, where Foreign Ministers from the G7 countries were meeting to discuss world issues.
After Europe and the US, this is the first such incident in Canada.
Canada survived a major terror attack in 2006 when 18 people linked to Al Qaeda were arrested for plotting to kill the Prime Minister, blow up parliament and take MPs hostage.
(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])