Muslim family ID'd in fatal truck attack in London, Ont., known for commitment to community

The Muslim family identified as the victims of a hit and run Sunday in what police are calling a hate-motivated attack in London, Ont., were deeply involved in the community and committed to their faith, friends and family say.

Man, 20, charged with 4 counts of murder, 1 count of attempted murder

Yumna Afzaal, 15, left, Madiha Salman, 44, centre left, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, right, were out for an evening walk when they were run over by a man who police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. (Submitted by Afzaal family)

The Muslim family identified as the victims of a hit and run Sunday in what police are calling a hate-motivated attack in London, Ont., were deeply involved in the community and committed to their faith, friends and family say.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman Afzaal's 74-year-old mother, Talat Afzaal, were killed after a black truck slammed into them as they took an evening walk.

The victims' names were confirmed to CBC News by family members. 

Police say the driver of the truck, who was arrested about 10 minutes from the scene the same evening, planned the attack and targeted the family because of their Muslim faith. 

The youngest member of the family, Fayez, 9, survived and remained in hospital Monday in serious condition. 

The killing of three generations of a Muslim family has sent shockwaves throughout Canada and beyond. 

'A passionate leader'

Fayez attends the London Islamic School, an elementary school. After graduating from the London Islamic School last year, Yumna was a Grade 9 student at Oakridge Secondary School. 

Yumna had designed, drawn and painted a mural in the basement of the elementary school, which will now be a part of her legacy, school officials said. 

Asad Choudhary, principal of the London Islamic School, told parents assembled for a virtual town hall on Monday evening about the mural.

"[Yumna] came to this school building and she made something incredible, and when I thanked her, she came up to me and said, 'I need to thank you, because you're giving me an opportunity to leave a legacy for a place I love so much,'" Choudhary said. 

At Oakridge, Yumna was set to be asked to be a Grade 10 representative on the Muslim Students Association, said the organization's president, Hooriya Ansari. 

A memorial has grown in the hours since a Muslim family was killed on Sunday evening in London, Ont. Police believe their killing was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

"I didn't know her personally, but for next year's term, I was supposed to recruit her," Ansari said. "We saw in her someone who is a passionate leader." 

Leaving a legacy

The children's mother, Madiha, had recently completed post-graduate work in civil and environmental engineering. Her LinkedIn profile outlines her goal of getting a job as a junior engineer so she could work on "geo-environmental issues" and "contribute towards reclamation of our natural environment."

Salman Afzaal was a humble man who was deeply involved in projects at the mosque, said his friend, Danveer Chaudry. 

"We were both from Pakistan, and when I used to own a restaurant, he used to come there and we became really good friends. We would chit-chat," Chaudry told CBC News. 

"He was a very humble guy, always there for the community. I feel sorry that we were not in touch in the last year because of COVID. When I heard this tragedy, my heart is in so much pain and sorrow."

Saboor Khan, who knew the family, said he is now frightened for his community. 

"I am afraid for my children, for my community, for anyone who wears the hijab, who dresses in a traditional Muslim way," he said. 

People and members of the media are seen at a makeshift memorial at the fatal crime scene where a man driving a pickup truck jumped the curb and ran over a Muslim family in what police say was a deliberately targeted anti-Islamic hate crime, in London, Ont., on Monday. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

"This was an act of terror and it has really, really terrorized our community. We need our politicians to step forward, to accept it for what it is. 

"When you see all of this happening, it just makes it very difficult to understand how people are not seeing how serious this issue is, and how little is being done about it over time. There are condolences and then things die down until the next thing happens. We need action."

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, of London faces four charges of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

With files from Sara Jabakanji, Hala Ghonaim and Andrew Lupton