Is Nathaniel Veltman part of a hate group? Slain Muslim family's kin says he was 'influenced'

Salman Afzaal's relatives disagreed with the initial police statement that Nathaniel Veltman was not a member of any hate group and had no accomplices


                            Is Nathaniel Veltman part of a hate group? Slain Muslim family's kin says he was 'influenced'
Salman Afzaal's family was mowed down by truck driver Nathaniel Veltman (Twitter/Anna Arbonheim)

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is in police custody after being charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for allegedly killing four members of a Muslim family. It was an attack that shocked the world and one that the Canadian prime minister's national security advisor called the country's "most deadly extremist threat". The London Police Service has alleged that the family was deliberately targeted because they were Muslims. That raises the question of whether Veltman was a part of a hate group. 

Four members of the Afzaal family were killed and a fifth was injured when a pickup truck ran over them on Sunday, June 6, 2021, in London, Ontario. The case has gained attention all over the world as the community gathered to fight racism and Islamophobia after police said the suspect was motivated by hate.

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What happened?

According to the police, witnesses said that Veltman reportedly jumped the curb in his vehicle and struck the family. With no previous criminal record, the 20-year-old is due back in court on Thursday, June 10, 2021, after being remanded in custody on Monday, June 7, 2021.

The four family members who were killed were 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his wife 44-year-old Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother, whose name has not yet been released. As per the latest reports, their 9-year-old son Fayez Afzaal remained hospitalized on Tuesday, June 8, with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Is Nathaniel Veltman part of a hate group?

Earlier, the police had said that Veltman attacked the family motivated by hate. "There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate," Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London police department reportedly said. "We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith," Waight said. Additionally, police also said that Veltman does not have a criminal record and is not known to be a member of a hate group.

However, relatives and those close to the family believe otherwise. In a statement issued late on Monday, June 7, relatives of the victims disputed this initial police statement that the accused man was not a member of any hate group and had no accomplices. "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 relatives said in a statement. However, they did not identify the group or explain how they know about the alleged ties.

"We need to stand against hate and Islamophobia and raise awareness in our communities and across all the political spectrum," they added. The relatives of the victims said that the children were both top students and their parents excelled in their fields. "Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the... family know the model family they were as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis. They were always there giving and participating in spreading goodness,” the statement said.

'Most deadly extremist threat'

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser said on Tuesday, June 8, that the attack was an example of Canada’s “most deadly extremist threat". In a speech to the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Vincent Rigby said that the attack targeted a family "based on their Islamic faith".

"Ideologically motivated violent extremism, or IMVE, in particular, poses a growing threat to Canadian national security, and is our most deadly extremist threat," Rigby said later in his address. "And sadly we’ve seen this play out in recent days." As per reports, IMVE is a term used by the federal government to describe violence fueled by far-right and other extremist beliefs 'as opposed to religiously or politically motivated violence'.

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