TORONTO (AP) — An explosion caused by a homemade bomb ripped through an Indian restaurant where children were present for family parties at a mall in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, wounding 15 people, Canadian police said.
Police said Friday two suspects with their faces covered to conceal their identity entered the Bombay Bhel restaurant late Thursday, dropped the improvised explosive device and fled. Peel Regional Sergeant Matt Bertram said an object resembling a pail or paint can was carried into the restaurant by one of the suspects in his hand.
“There is no indication that this is a terrorism act. There is no indication that this is a hate crime at this time. We haven’t ruled anything out as we start our investigation,” said Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans.
“Every police resource is being used right now to locate the people responsible for this horrendous act.”
Officials said three Indian-Canadians suffered critical injuries and were taken to the hospital while the remaining 12 victims suffered what Evans described as minor and superficial injuries. Police later updated the condition of the three critically injured patients to stable. The ages of the injured range from 23 to 69. Children under the age of 10 were present but were not hurt.
The explosion happened just after 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, and the plaza where the restaurant is located was still sealed off on Friday. Television footage showed an injured woman limping away from the restaurant.
“Nothing was said by these individuals,” Bertram said. “It appears they just went in, dropped off this device and took off right away.”
Rafael Conceicao, a student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was near the restaurant when the explosion occurred. He said there was a child’s birthday party inside the restaurant at the time.
“Glass was broken in the street … Everything was destroyed. Lots of blood in the floor. Many people were screaming. They were trying to run out from the restaurant,” he said.
Evans said there were two separate family parties happening at the time.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she was thankful there were no fatalities.
“I would call it a very heinous, reprehensible act committed by cowards who came into a restaurant where people are vulnerable, celebrating with their families and where children are present,” she said.
“This is certainly not anything you would expect to happen in Mississauga, not my Mississauga. This is not the Mississauga I know.”
The explosion comes a month after a driver of a van plowed into pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 14. Authorities have not disclosed a motive. But they have said the arrested driver, Alek Minassian, posted a message on social media referencing a misogynistic online community before the attack.
“To have two of these things happen in a short period of time is worrisome,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, adding that such events are shocking because they are rare in Canada.
She said the restaurant bombing was being treated as a criminal incident.
Bertram said they sealed off a couple areas east of the restaurant were footprints, a glove and other evidence was located. Police believe the suspects fled the area in a car.
Bertram said authorities couldn’t say what the motive was in the bombing or what device was used.
“Different callers called in and said it was firecrackers or some said gunshot sort of noises. I don’t think it was an explosion that was rocking anything,” he said. “Until we can get in there and analyze the material after the search warrant we won’t be able to say what it was.”
Andre Larrivee, who lives in a nearby condo, said he was watching television when he heard an explosion.
“It was really loud,” he said, comparing the noise to an electric generator that had exploded at a nearby construction site recently.
Police asked for the public’s help and released a photo of the suspects, both with dark hoodies pulled over their heads and their faces covered.
Peel regional police described the first suspect as someone in his mid-20s with a stocky build, wearing dark blue jeans and a baseball cap with a light gray bill. The second suspect was described as a little shorter with a thin build, wearing faded blue jeans, a gray T-shirt and dark-colored skate shoes.
“It was an extremely horrific and sad incident that happened at our Hwy 10 location,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post. “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.”
Vikas Swarup, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, tweeted that India’s Consul General in Toronto visited the injured in the hospital. The Indian consulate in Toronto tweeted it had opened a helpline for those seeking assistance following the explosion.