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A driver mowed down pedestrians on a busy footpath on a warm, sunny day in the Canadian city

Anna Freeman

24 Abril 2018 11:54

Toronto police are looking for a motive of a driver who rammed a rented van into pedestrians on a busy footpath, killing 10 people and injuring 15. The Canadian city is still reeling from the attack yesterday thought to be perpetrated at a time most likely to cause maximum damage.

What happened?

Eyewitness reports at the scene claim a van drove south down the busy Yonge Street in Toronto at around 1.30pm local time yesterday. The area was crowded with people enjoying a warm day when the van drove up onto the pavement and ploughed into pedestrians.

Witness Ali Shaker told Canadian broadcast outlet CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd at a speed exceeding 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 clearly didn’t want to stop his vehicle. ‘If it was an accident he would have stopped,’ Mr Kang said. ‘But the person just went through the sidewalk. He could have stopped.’

10 people died in the incident while a further 15 were injured, some in critical condition, police have said.

What do we know about the suspect?

Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders said 25-year-old Alek Minassian is in custody on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

Saunders said the man lives in a suburb of Toronto, Richmond Hill, and he had not previously been known to police.

Reuters spoke to Minassian’s classmates of a high school he attended for students with special needs, where he would reportedly often roam the halls with his head down and hands tightly clasped.

Special needs is a blanket term used in the Canadian education system that covers learning and behavioral difficulties, as well as physical disabilities.

Minassian is due in court at 10am Toronto time.

Was it a terror attack?

It depends what is defined as a terror attack. All information points to the attack being a purposeful act of aggression, but officials played down a possible link to terrorism given the incident closely resembles a series of attacks involving vehicles and pedestrians in Europe, and the presence of cabinet ministers from the G7 nations who are currently in Toronto.

Saunders said: ‘Based on what we have there's nothing that has it to compromise the national security at this time.’ Saunders refused to comment on a possible motive, however.

This story is developing. We will update it as more information becomes known.

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