Several killed after van hits pedestrians in Toronto, driver identified

- in World News

Toronto:  Police say 10 people have been killed after a rented white van mounted a kerb in Toronto and struck pedestrians.

The driver has been identified by police as 25-year-old Alek Minassian in the incident which left a further 15 people injured.

Police were pictured at Minassian’s home in the northern Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill. Minassian was not believed to be associated with any organised militant group.

Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said that, based on consultations with “top security officials…there appears to be no national security connection” to the event.

The van rampage occurred just before 1.30pm on a sunny afternoon, as large crowds of office workers were on lunch breaks.

Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital said five people were in critical condition, while two were in serious condition after the incident.

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Videos from bystanders aired on CP24, a Toronto cable news channel, appeared to show the arrest of the van driver, a balding man standing beside an extensively damaged white Ryder rental van.

He appeared to be locked in a brief standoff with the police and was pointing an object at them. Videos showed the man quickly dropping the object in his hand and being arrested.

The motive for the rampage is not known and Canadian officials have not speculated publicly.

One US security source said terrorism is the leading theory about the motive for the attack, Reuters reported. However, other officials cited by NBC News said that “mental health” was believed to be to blame.

Acting Toronto Police Chief Peter Yuen did not say whether he considers the incident deliberate or terror related.[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“Pray for our victims,” is all he would say.

John Flengas, the acting emergency medical services supervisor for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, which said it received seven victims from the scene, told CTV News on Monday that “multiple people were injured, multiple people were deceased.”

Flengas described the scene of the episode as “pure carnage” and said there were “victims everywhere.”

Another witness, Ali Shaker, who witnessed the crash, said the driver hit someone with a stroller, CTV reported.

Ten people were transported to the hospital with two listed as ‘vital signs absent’ according to CBC television.

At least one witness described the driver as appearing to deliberately target victims on his roughly kilometre-long rampage.

“This person was intentionally doing this, he was killing everybody,” the man said.[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“He kept going, he kept going. People were getting hit, one after another.”

“I couldn’t believe what I seen man. Everybody, all these people on the streets getting hit one by one, a post office box getting crumpled up on people and one person got dragged on and their blood is all over Young and Empress [streets],” the witness said.

He said a number of the victims were older people and at one point he saw a stroller fly into the air.

The incident occurred at lunchtime in a mixed commercial and residential area, where the footpaths were full of pedestrians.

The van was stopped about a mile south of where the episode took place, said Dan Fox, a civil servant who passed the vehicle on his way to work Monday. He said there was “significant damage to the side of the van.”

The incident happened about 30 kms from downtown, where the Group of Seven foreign ministers of industrialised nations, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US were meeting on Monday. There was no noticeable change in security around the Intercontinental Hotel where the ministers gathered.

A witness, Phil Zullo, told Canadian Press:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“It was awful. Brutal.”

Video posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be police apprehending a suspect on the street at gun point.

Toronto paramedic spokeswoman Kim McKinnon said first responders were on scene treating multiple patients, but wouldn’t confirm the number or severity of injuries.

Police shut down the Yonge and Finch intersection following the Monday afternoon incident and Toronto’s transit agency said it has suspended service on the subway line running through the area.

The United States and Europe have seen a string of deadly attacks in which vehicles were used to mow down pedestrians, including an October 31 attack in New York that killed eight

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