‘A terrorist attack on Muslims’: six dead in Canadian city mosque shooting and one arrested

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 10:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 7:20am

The shooting at a Quebec mosque during Sunday night prays which killed six people was a “terrorist attack on Muslims”, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the  president of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, Mohamed Yangui.

Quebec police said six people had died, and eight were injured.

A witness said a heavily armed police tactical squad was seen entering the mosque.

Police later tweeted: “The situation is under control.”

Yangui, who was not inside the mosque when the shooting occurred, said he got frantic calls from people at evening prayers.

Trudeau said on Twitter: “Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.”

Two people were initially arrested, but police later clarified that only one, Alexandre Bissonnette, was being held as a suspect. The second man, a witness to the attack, was released.

Bissonnette is a a French-Canadian

Like France, Quebec has struggled at times to reconcile its secular identity with a rising Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants.

In June 2016, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the cultural centre.

“We are not safe here,” said Mohammed Oudghiri, who normally attends prayers at the mosque but not on Sunday.

Oudghiri said he had lived in Quebec for 42 years but was now “very worried” and thinking of moving back to Morocco.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a tweet that he was “profoundly saddened by the loss of life and wounded.”

Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. The face-covering, or niqab, became a big issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election, especially in Quebec, where the vast majority of the population supported a ban on it at citizenship ceremonies.

In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of the province was splattered with what was believed to be pig blood.

In the neighbouring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015, a day after an attack by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris.

Zebida Bendjeddou, who left the mosque earlier on Sunday evening, said the centre had received threats.

“In June, they’d put a pig’s head in front of the mosque. But we thought: ‘Oh, they’re isolated events.’ We didn’t take it seriously. But tonight, those isolated events, they take on a different scope,” she said.

Bendjeddou said she had not yet confirmed the names of those killed, but added: “They’re people we know, for sure. People we knew since they were little kids.”