U.S. Markets closed

Canada hunts two suspects in restaurant blast that left 15 hurt

Michel COMTE
Police just outside Toronto released a surveillance camera image of two hooded men carrying a device and entering an Indian restaurant where a blast occurred, wounding 15 people (AFP Photo/Eric BARADAT)

Ottawa (AFP) - Police in Canada on Friday hunted for two men believed to have detonated explosives at an Indian restaurant near Toronto, wounding 15 people, but police said there was no indication the blast was an act of terror.

The explosion late Thursday at the Bombay Bhel restaurant in Missasauga in Toronto's western suburbs, which was reportedly felt more than four kilometers (2.5 miles) away, also did not appear to be a hate crime, authorities said.

"Two men wearing hoodies were seen entering the restaurant with an IED," or improvised explosive device, Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans told a news conference.

"The men were seen fleeing the scene immediately following the explosion," Evans added. "Every police resource is being used right now to locate the people responsible for this horrendous act."

Evans added: "We haven't ruled anything out as we start our investigation."

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said there was "no connection to national security at this point."

The pair, who were also wearing jeans and face coverings, did not say anything in the restaurant, where two birthdays were being celebrated. They just dropped off the device and left, authorities said.

The incident is nevertheless likely to provoke jitters in the nation's biggest metropolitan area -- it comes just one month after a man in a rented van plowed into pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people.

- Bloodied and limping victims -

Pictures and video footage showed victims being escorted in wheelchairs and stretchers to waiting ambulances, or limping out of the restaurant, bleeding from wounds caused by flying glass and shrapnel.

The blast reportedly destroyed the inside of the restaurant. Its front doors were shattered but still clinging to their hinges.

Witnesses said the bomb looked like a paint can or a bucket and, according to police, was filled with projectile objects.

Three of the wounded -- a 35-year-old man and two women aged 48 and 62 -- were taken to hospital in critical condition, but later improved to stable condition. India's High Commissioner to Canada, Vikas Swarup, said all three were dual nationals.

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

"This was a family restaurant and a place where celebrations take place," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said, calling the event "shocking."

On its website, the restaurant posted a message that said: "It was an extremely horrific and sad incident."

"This is a heinous crime," echoed Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.

- Nothing ruled out -

The Toronto area has a sizeable population of Indian descent at 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.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are assisting Peel Regional Police in their investigation, Goodale said, despite the fact that terror is thus far not suspected.

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 eastbound in a vehicle.

A canine unit and an elite police team were deployed immediately, but were unable to track the suspects, whose footprints in nearby mud were identified with yellow evidence markers.

Police were also canvassing area residents for eyewitness accounts and any video footage from home security cameras.

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. Those bombings killed more than 300 people.