15 hurt in blast at Indian restaurant in Canada

Ottawa (AFP) –


Canadian police on Friday hunted two men after a blast at an Indian restaurant near Toronto injured 15 people, including three dual Indian-Canadian nationals, but police said there were no initial signs of terrorism.

Neither were there indications of a "hate crime" in the attack which initially left three of the injured in critical condition.

An improvised device detonated Thursday night at the eatery in Mississauga, a major suburb west of Toronto, while two parties celebrated birthdays, Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans told a news conference at the scene.

"Two men wearing hoodies were seen entering the restaurant with an IED," or improvised device, she said. "The men were seen fleeing the scene immediately following the explosion."

The pair, who were also wearing jeans and face coverings, did not say anything, just dropped off the device and left, authorities said earlier.

"Every police resource is being used right now to locate the people responsible for this horrendous act," Evans added.

Three of the wounded -- a 35-year-old man and two women, aged 48 and 62 -- were taken by ambulance to hospital in critical condition, but were listed as stable on Friday morning.

Children under 10 years old were inside the restaurant at the time of the explosion but were not harmed.

Other victims were treated for minor injuries after the blast at the popular Bombay Bhel restaurant in a strip mall that is surrounded by houses, grassy fields, and condo towers under construction.

India's High Commissioner to Canada Vikas Swarup said in a social media post that consular officials stood ready to help, after going to the hospital to confirm that the three dual nationals reported to be critically injured "are stable now."

The Toronto metropolitan area has a sizeable population with Indian origins, almost 600,000, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited India in February.

"We stand in solidarity with the victims of this violence and we wish a speedy recovery to the wounded," Trudeau said on Twitter.

"We are working closely with the police and the Mississauga authorities."

- Flying glass -

Video footage and images of the aftermath showed victims being escorted in wheelchairs and stretchers to waiting ambulances, or limping out of the restaurant, bleeding from wounds caused by flying glass, as red and blue emergency lights lit up the night.

According to reports, the blast was felt more than four kilometers away (2.5 miles), and destroyed the inside of the restaurant, its front doors shattered but still clinging to their hinges.

"This is a heinous crime," Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said. "This is not the Mississauga that I know."

So far there is "no indication this is a terrorist act, no indication this is a hate crime," said police chief Evans, who added: "We haven't ruled anything out as we start our investigation."

That position was echoed by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who said there was "no connection to national security at this point," calling it an "awful, violent incident."

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, however, are assisting Peel Regional Police in their investigation, he said.

Evans said investigators were reviewing surveillance camera footage, and asked for the public's help in identifying and locating the suspects, whom she said are believed to have fled in a vehicle.

Canada has been hit periodically throughout the decades by criminal and political bombings, including those linked to Quebec nationalists in the 1960s, attacks on abortion clinics in the 1990s, a war between biker gangs from 1994 to 2002, and bombings of natural gas pipelines by environmentalists in 2008.

Last year, Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Sikh militant and the only man convicted in the 1985 bombings of two Air India flights which had left Vancouver, was paroled after two decades in a Canadian prison.

The bombings killed more than 300 people.