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Toronto van attack: what we know so far

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Toronto van attack: what we know so far

Toronto van attack: what we know so far
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A judge in Canada has charged 25-year-old suspect Alek Minassian with ten counts of first-degree murder and 13 of attempted murder for ploughing a van into pedestrians in north Toronto on Monday.

What happened ?

The drama began just before 1.30pm local time on Monday, as lunchtime crowds were thronging the streets in the sunshine, in a suburb of northern Toronto. It’s described as an affluent, multicultural area.

A white rented van mounted the kerb on Yonge Street, police say, and careered down the long avenue along a two-kilometre stretch, veering between the road and the pavement and ploughing into pedestrians.

Witnesses reported seeing people being struck and thrown into the air as the driver “hit anything” in his path. “People were getting hit, one after another,” a man who gave his name as Ali told CNN.

What do we know about the victims?

Overnight it was reported that the number of dead stood at 10, with another 15 people injured. Early on Tuesday morning no information had been released about their identities.

Who is the suspect?

The man in custody is 25-year-old Alek Minissian, born in November 1992. The authorities say he was not previously known to them.

He reportedly came from the nearby suburb of Richmond Hill. Former classmates quoted by Reuters said he had attended a high school programme for students with special needs, as well as mainstream classes.

One described him as not “a social person”, but “absolutely harmless”.

Minissian has been charged with ten counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

The suspect learned of the charges on Tuesday afternoon. He did not enter a plea to the charges and was ordered to return to court on May 10.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A witness speaks to a policeman at the scene of the attack in Toronto, April 23, 2018REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

How was the suspect apprehended?

The suspect was arrested within half an hour of the atrocity, according to reports, several blocks away.

Amateur video has been posted showing the scene as the arrest took place, from perhaps 50 metres away. A man dressed in black emerges from a white van and points what looks like a weapon at a police officer standing in the road on the other side of a parked car.

The officer has a gun trained on the suspect, who reportedly shouted “kill me”. “No, get down,” the officer replies.

Three pedestrians are seen walking slowly in the background, at first seemingly unaware of the tense standoff.

Footage which looks like it was taken from an overhead helicopter shows the suspect advancing into the road, still pointing what looks like a weapon at the officer.

The policeman does not shoot – an act which has drawn widespread praise – but instead bears down on the suspect who retreats and is then forced to the ground, where he is held down by several officers.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Witnesses are pictured at the scene of an incident where a van struck multiple people on Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 23, 2018.REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

What have the authorities said?

Euronews' partners NBC News have been briefed by US and Canadian law enforcement officials who say that mental illness is currently the leading theory based on their preliminary investigations.

The motive for the attack was not known, police and government officials have said.

"It's very clear just from a general perspective to say that the actions definitely looked deliberate,” Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told a late-night news conference. About the suspect, he went on to say: “There is nothing on our files. We've looked right across and there's nothing that we have on... on him right now."

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said there appeared to be no connection to terrorism.

"On the basis of all available information at the present time, there would appear to be no national security connection to this particular incident," he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities don't see a national security element in the attack, adding that the incident "hasn't changed the overall threat level in Canada."

Trudeau called it a “tragic and senseless attack”, offering his “heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those who were killed, and my thoughts for a fast and full recovery to those injured”. He went on to thank the first responders who coped “with courage and professionalism”.