Police stand outside the Bombay Bhel restaurant in Mississauga, Ont. on Friday May 25, 2018. Fifteen people were injured Thursday night when an explosion police say was caused by an “improvised explosive device” ripped through a restaurant in Mississauga. Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ives

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

A blast that left 15 people injured at a busy Indian restaurant west of Toronto is not believed to be a hate crime or an act of terrorism, authorities said Friday as they searched for two men believed to be behind the explosion.

Police called Thursday night’s blast at the Bombay Bhel restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., an isolated incident and said they had no information suggesting a current threat to public safety.

Two birthday parties were taking place at the restaurant when an improvised explosive device went off, but none of the young children present were hurt, police said.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who visited the site of the explosion Friday, said she was shocked at the brazenness of the incident.

“It is a heinous, reprehensible act, committed by cowards who would come into a restaurant where people are vulnerable, celebrating with their families, where children are present,” a visibly emotional Crombie said. ”You will be found and you will be brought to justice … this does not happen in my Mississauga.”

Police said two men walked into the restaurant, located near Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue, around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, detonated an improvised explosive device, and then fled the scene on foot before jumping into an unidentified vehicle.

Those injured in the explosion ranged in age from 23 to 69, police said. Three of the victims had initially been listed in critical condition, but by Friday afternoon, police said all had been released from hospital.

“There’s no indication that this is a terrorist act. There’s no indication that this is a hate crime,” Peel region police Chief Jennifer Evans said outside the plaza where the restaurant is located. “At this time we haven’t ruled anything out as we start our investigation.”

The area outside the restaurant remained taped off Friday afternoon. Officers also examined a scene a few hundred metres away, looking at footprints in a new residential development.

The restaurant issued a brief Facebook statement describing the attack as “extremely horrific and sad” and thanked those who expressed their support.

Sanjiv Jagota, who owns a nearby store, was driving by the area last night when he saw a number of emergency vehicles. Jagota said he’s good friends with Bombay Bhel’s owner and stood outside the police tape line with the owner’s son.

“My main concern is that they’re OK,” he said, noting that the restaurant opened in the mid-1990s. “This place is like their baby.”

Rohan Jumani, a regular Bombay Bhel patron, described the owner as a “super gentleman” and said the restaurant was popular with all demographics in the diverse community.

“It’s a very family-friendly area,” he said. “We are very concerned about these kinds of incidents now happening.”

Barbara Sawala, who owns a local flower shop in the plaza, only learned about the attack Friday morning. She said the restaurant frequently bought rose petals from her business for use in traditional Indian ceremonies.

“You are not supposed to be exposed to things like that,” Sawala said. ”We are working here, we live in a very close-knitted community with the plaza. This is very sad.”

Police have released photos of the two suspects and urged anyone with information to come forward. Peel region officers are working with the RCMP and forces from around the Greater Toronto Area as the search for the men continues.

The Indian consulate in Toronto set up a hotline for those impacted by the blast, with Consul Davinder Pal Singh explaining the move was standard procedure when Indian nationals may be involved in an incident abroad. He added that no one has reached out for help so far.

“It’s an unfortunate thing to happen anywhere in this world,” he said. ”We offer heartfelt support to those who need support from the consulate.”

The leaders of Ontario’s three main political parties, all in the midst of an election campaign, issued statements of support and sympathy for those affected.

“(It’s) shocking and a fearful incident and not at all the kind of thing that any of us could expect in our lives if we’re out with our families at a restaurant enjoying ourselves,” said Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who took time from campaigning for a security briefing on the incident. She noted that the explosion comes barely a month after 10 people died in a van attack in north Toronto.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed his support for the injured and wished them a swift recovery.

The Canadian Press

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