A 20-year-old man ran over a Muslim family of five in his pickup truck in Canada’s Ontario province, killing four members, AFP reported on Tuesday. The police said they were deliberately targeted in a hate attack.

The suspect, Nathaniel Veltman, has been arrested, the police said. “There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate,” Detective Superintendent Paul Waight said on Monday. “It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim.”

A nine-year-old boy was hospitalised following the attack and is recovering.

On Sunday, the family was walking along a sidewalk when a black pick-up truck “mounted the curb and struck” them as they waited to cross the intersection, according to the police. The driver then fled the scene and was arrested at a mall seven kilometres away in London, Ontario.

The police have not released the names of the deceased, but they include three generations of the family – a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl – according to London Mayor Ed Holder.

“Let me be clear, this was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, rooted in unspeakable hatred,” Holder said.

Veltman has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The detective superintendent said that the local authorities were liaising with federal police and the attorney general about adding “terrorism charges”.

The accused will be produced before a court on Thursday, reported Reuters. He was remanded to custody on Monday.

The police said that Veltman does not have a criminal record and was not a known member of a hate group. At the time of his arrest, he was wearing a body-armour-type vest and surrendered without any resistance, the police said, adding that there is no evidence to suggest that he had any accomplices.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack “hateful and heinous”. “I let them know we’ll continue to use every tool we have to combat Islamophobia – and we’ll be here for those who are grieving,” he tweeted.

In a statement, the National Council of Canadian Muslims said that it was “beyond horrified and demands justice” for the family who were just out for a walk.

In 2017, a 27-year-old man had opened fire on worshipers at a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people. The shooter, Alexandre Bissonette, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. But the sentence was lowered on appeal and the Supreme Court is now reviewing his punishment.

In 2018, a man in a van mowed down pedestrians, killing at least 10 and injuring 15 others in north Toronto. The accused, Alek Minassian, was found guilty in March and will be sentenced in January next year.