Fifteen people were injured, three seriously, as unidentified persons set off a bomb within an Indian restaurant in a suburb of Toronto on Thursday night. Local police have launched a manhunt for two suspects.
While police said there was nothing in the investigations yet to suggest terrorism or hate crime, they were ruling nothing out in terms of the possible motive of the attack.
The scene of the incident was the Bombay Bhel restaurant in Mississauga, where a pair of birthday celebrations were in progress within its premises. Peel Regional Police have provided CCTV images of two men, their faces hidden by hoodies, entering the restaurant prior to the explosion, and then fleeing the restaurant. All three of the seriously injured are of Indian origin, but considered to be stable at this time.
During a press conference on Friday morning, Police Chief Jennifer Evans said the investigation was in its “early stages.” While an improvised explosive device was used in the attack, police have not yet ascertained the motive and neither described it as a terror incident or a hate crime.”
However, she said, “We’re not ruling anything out at this point.”
Security footage shows the suspects, dressed in dark hoodies, enter the restaurant. Police posted the image on Twitter asking for people’s help in identifying the suspects.
(Peel Regional Police/Twitter)
During a Friday morning press conference, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie described the incident as a “heinous crime”, while Evans said, “Every police resource is being used to locate the people responsible for this horrendous act.”
The explosion occurred late Thursday at the popular local restaurant where two birthday parties were on. The members of the families were people of Indian origin. While three were taken to the Toronto Trauma Center with serious wounds, 12 others suffered minor injuries from the blast. Those seriously wounded by the blast were a 35 year-old man from Brampton, a 48-year-old woman and a 62-year-old woman, both from Mississauga.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted she was monitoring the situation from New Delhi.
“I am in constant touch with our Consul General in Toronto and Indian High Commissioner in Canada. Our missions will work round the clock.”
Officials from the Indian Consulate visited both the site of the explosion and the hospitals where the injured were taken by paramedics.
India’s Consul General to Toronto Dinesh Bhatia was among those who were at the hospital for a large chunk of the night, and he told the Hindustan Times, “The Consulate opened a helpline immediately after receiving the information about the explosion to extend all possible assistance. We are keeping a close watch on the situation. External Affairs Minister and Ministry of External Affairs are fully informed of the developments.
The Consulate General has also established a helpline for those impacted by the incident. India’s High Commissioner to Canada Vikas Swarup was also tracking developments relating to it.
Local police are coordinating with forces across the region in the manhunt for the two men who fled the restaurant. Police have also sought information from the public in an effort to identify and apprehend suspects.
In a message on Facebook, the restaurant, part of chain owned by Nagpal family, stated, “It was an extremely horrific and sad incident that happened at our Hwy 10 location yesterday evening. We want to thank you for all of your support and well wishes, especially to the families that were affected. At this time, the police are undergoing a full investigation to ensure the individuals are apprehended.”
Canada’s High Commissioner to New Delhi Nadir Patel tweeted they were “following closely reports of an explosion at an Indian restaurant in #Mississauga, Ontario. At this time, our thoughts are with those injured in the blast and wishing for their speedy recovery.”
Patel was scheduled to appear at an Indian community event in Mississauga on Friday evening.
Police also posted descriptions of the two men who were seen fleeing the scene. The first is a male, between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall, “stocky build, mid-20s, light skin, wearing dark blue jeans, dark zip up hoodie pulled over head, baseball cap with light grey peak, face covered with black cloth material.”
The other man was described as :”5’9”-5’10”, fair skin, thin build, faded blue jeans, dark zip-up hoodie hood pulled over head, grey t-shirt, dark coloured skate shoes, face covered.”
Community groups like the Indo-Canadian Harmony Forum called upon the Indo-Canadian community to assist police so the “culprits are punished.”
Its chairperson Azad Kaushik said, “It seems that the purpose of the attack was to instill fear in the mind of law-abiding innocent Canadians at the time when provincial elections are to be held on June 7.”