Driver kills 10, injures 15 plowing van into Toronto sidewalk crowd

TORONTO (Reuters) - A driver deliberately plowed his white Ryder rental van into a lunch-hour crowd in Toronto on Monday, killing 10 people and injuring 15 along a roughly mile-long (1.6-km) stretch of sidewalk thronged with pedestrians, police said.

The incident - which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a "tragic and senseless attack" - was one of the most violent in recent Canadian history.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders identified the suspect as Alek Minassian, 25, who he said had not previously been known to authorities.

"The actions definitely looked deliberate," he told a late-night news conference close to the site of the incident in the northern section of Canada's biggest city, noting the van had been driven along sidewalks.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp, citing government officials, said Minassian was not associated with any organized militant group.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, standing next to Saunders, said: "There would appear to be no national security connections."

More on the incident:

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Several pedestrians killed after van strikes people in Toronto
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Several pedestrians killed after van strikes people in Toronto
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Toronto police responds to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
People react to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Toronto police investigates an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
People react to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
An unidentified body is seen near the crime scene after a truck hit several pedestrians in Toronto, Ontario, on on April 23, 2018. - A man drove a white rental van into a crowd of pedestrians in the center of Canada's biggest city Toronto on April 23, 2018, injuring as many as 10 people, police said.Canadian media reported at least four fatalities, but that was not yet confirmed by police. The vehicle fled the scene, but the driver was later arrested.'Update: unknown of extent of injuries, possible 8 - 10 pedestrians struck,' Toronto police wrote on Twitter. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Firemen cover a victim of an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A pedestrian, who police say was a witness to a van striking multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, reacts in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A pedestrian officer responds to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
A pedestrian walks along a police crime scene tape near where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Toronto police investigates an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
A police officer responds to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 23 - Police have Yonge Street blocked off at Parkview Avenue where on of the victims lies on the East side of the street as the Police investigate a van that ran down pedestrians along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 23, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: A police officer enters his police car at the cordoned off Yonge St. at Finch Ave. after a van plowed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Law enforcement and first responders on scene at Yonge St. at Finch Ave. after a van plows into pedestrians April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Police officers stand near the crime scene after a truck hit several pedestrians in Toronto, Ontario, on on April 23, 2018. - A man drove a white rental van into a crowd of pedestrians in the center of Canada's biggest city Toronto on April 23, 2018, injuring as many as 10 people, police said.Canadian media reported at least four fatalities, but that was not yet confirmed by police. The vehicle fled the scene, but the driver was later arrested.'Update: unknown of extent of injuries, possible 8 - 10 pedestrians struck,' Toronto police wrote on Twitter. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 23 - Police have Yonge Street blocked off at Parkview Avenue where on of the victims lies on the East side of the street as the Police investigate a van that ran down pedestrians along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 23, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 23 - Police have Yonge Street blocked off at Parkview Avenue where on of the victims lies on the East side of the street as the Police investigate a van that ran down pedestrians along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 23, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
#UPDATE: Toronto Police confirm a van mounted the curb and hit a number of pedestrians. The driver fled the scene.… https://t.co/ithoyep0bK
There is a Ryder van up on the curb on Poyntz Ave, just south of Yonge & Sheppard. Overheard “…they shot him”. Heli… https://t.co/H7cmfh1mk2
JUST IN: A van has collided with numerous pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, according to police. The extent of the in… https://t.co/gAQ8tk4vaj
More: Toronto subway service shut down after report that a van struck a number of people at Yonge Street and Finch… https://t.co/PvcqdMcf8H
JUST IN: Toronto police say pedestrians have been struck by a van, number of injuries are unknown https://t.co/hmCuVriMwU
I’ve now walked up Yonge St from north of Sheppard to Finch. I have passed multiple dead bodies covered up, shoes a… https://t.co/0BLR83tXJK
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The driver steered his vehicle toward people just before 1:30 p.m. (1730 GMT). A Reuters witness saw at least two tarp-covered bodies at the site of the incident.

The CBC aired a video it said was shot by a bystander that showed police arresting a suspect at the scene as he shouted: "Kill me" and pointed an unidentified object at an officer. The video later showed what appeared to be the same man lying down, being handcuffed.

Ryder System Inc <R.N> spokeswoman Claudia Panfil confirmed that one of the company's rental vehicles had been involved and said the company was cooperating with authorities.

There has been a string of deadly vehicle attacks in the United States and Europe, including an Oct. 31 attack in New York that killed eight. The Islamic State militant group encourages its supporters to use vehicles for attacks.

The tragedy in Toronto struck as Canada was still shaken by a highway crash in Saskatchewan earlier this month that took the lives of 16 people on a bus carrying a junior hockey team.

 

'TRAGIC AND SENSELESS ATTACK'

"It was with great sadness that I heard about the tragic and senseless attack that took place in Toronto this afternoon," Trudeau said in a statement. "We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities."

Last month, a former Canadian university student pleaded guilty to killing six men praying in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017.

In September, a Somali refugee was charged with attempted murder over allegations he ran down four pedestrians with a car and stabbed a police officer outside a sports stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

Monday's incident occurred about 30 km (18 miles) from the site where Toronto is hosting a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers from Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, but had no noticeable effect on that event's security.

A man who gave his name as Ali told CNN he saw the van and that the driver appeared to have been targeting people.

"This person was intentionally doing this, he was killing everybody," the man said. "He kept going, he kept going. People were getting hit, one after another."

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

At least one person was struck outside an Anglican church, north of where the van came to rest in front of a condominium tower.

Some of the victims were struck in a public square popular with office workers on lunch breaks. Aerial photos of the scene posted on social media showed a food truck parked just a few feet away from where emergency workers transferred people onto stretchers.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny and Allison Martell in Toronto; Additional reporting by Jim Finkle, Nichola Saminather, Carlo Allegri and David Ljunggren in Toronto, Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Andrea Hopkins and Scott Malone; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)

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