Monday 20 August 2018

What we know so far about the Toronto attack and the suspect

People embrace at the scene of a memorial for victims of a crash at Yonge St. at Finch Ave., after a van ploughed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect identified as Alek Minassian, 25, is in custody Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images
People embrace at the scene of a memorial for victims of a crash at Yonge St. at Finch Ave., after a van ploughed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect identified as Alek Minassian, 25, is in custody Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Police in Toronto are trying to find the motive of a driver who ploughed into pedestrians on a crowded footpath, killing 10 people and injuring 15.

What happened in the Toronto attack?

According to eyewitness reports a van was heading south on the busy Yonge Street in the Canadian city at around 1.30pm local time yesterday. The streets were crowded with people enjoying an unseasonably warm day when the van mounted the pavement and ploughed into pedestrians.

Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told Canadian broadcast outlet CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd at more than 30 mph.

"He just went on the sidewalk," Mr Shaker said. "He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit."

Witness Peter Kang told CTV News that the driver did not seem to make any effort to stop.

"If it was an accident he would have stopped," Mr Kang said. "But the person just went through the sidewalk. He could have stopped."

Police now say that 10 people died in the incident while a further 15 were injured.

 

What do we know so far about the suspect?

Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders said that the man in custody is 25-year-old Alek Minassian.

Mr Saunders said that the man lived in a suburb of Toronto called Richmond Hill and he had not previously been known to police.

Reuters report that MInassian attended a high school program for students with special needs where he would often walk the halls with his head down and hands tightly clasped, according to former classmates.

Shereen Chami said her former classmate was not violent. She said Minassian was part of a program at Thornlea Secondary School, in Toronto's northern suburbs, for high school students with special needs, attending a mix of mainstream and separate classes.

Chami remembers him walking the halls with his hands together and his head down, and making meowing noises.

"He wasn't a social person, but from what I remember he was absolutely harmless," she said.

Two other classmates said they attended classes for students with special needs alongside Minassian. Special needs is a blanket term used in the Canadian education system that covers learning and behavioral difficulties as well as physical disabilities.

 

Is the incident being treated as a terror attack?

Officials would not comment on a possible motive except to play down a possible connection to terrorism after the incident had several similarities to a series of attacks involving vehicles and pedestrians in Europe, and the presence in Toronto this week of cabinet ministers from the G7 nations.

Asked if there was any evidence of a terrorist link, Mr Saunders said: "Based on what we have there's nothing that has it to compromise the national security at this time."

A senior national government official said earlier that authorities had not turned over the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a sign that investigators believed it was unlikely that terrorism was the motive.

Is the suspect due to appear in court?

Police said the suspect was scheduled to appear in court at 10am on Tuesday (3pm Irish time), and that information on the charges against him would be released at that time.

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