Two students including one of ‘Moroccan origin’ have been arrested for the slaughter of six people at a Quebec mosque which came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, and Mohamed Khadir were named by TVA as the two suspects shortly after the attack at Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center at around 8pm on Sunday night.
The gunmen opened fire on worshipers as they prayed, shouting ‘Alluhu akbar’ as they sprayed the room of men with bullets.
Six men aged between 39 and 60 were killed at the scene and five remain in a critical condition in intensive care at Quebec’s Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus. Twelve others had less serious injuries and another 39 escaped unharmed.
Khadir was arrested at the scene but Bissonnette fled in his Mitsubishi. He was arrested 15 miles away later after calling 911 to turn himself in, Le Soleil reports.
Police searched his home in the nearby suburb Cap Rouge overnight. They were seen searching Khadir’s apartment on Monday.
Authorities refused to confirm their names on Monday but said they were not seeking anyone else in connection with the terrorist attack.
Both of the suspects are students at the city’s Université Laval which said it would cooperate with police in ‘any way’ it can. Neither was previously known to police.
The shooting came as protests erupted across the US in response to President Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration ban which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned earlier on Sunday.
Quebec Police have given no suggested motive for the killings but confirmed it was being treated as an act of terror. They are also looking in to whether a pig’s head left outside the mosque last year is connected to Sunday’s killings.
‘We’re still in the early stages of the investigation, we’re still trying to determine all the facts associated with the incident and not interfere with the progress of the investigation so we’re not going to discuss the specifics at this time,’ Martin Plante of the Gendarmerie royale du Canada said.
He confirmed one of the suspects had called police himself but refused to give any more details. ‘The suspect dialed 911 and identified himself as being involved with the incident.’
The 27-year-old’s Mitsubishi was pursued towards Félix-Leclerc highway before he stopped the vehicle himself. He is said to have had at least one handgun and two weapons ‘that resembled AK-47s’ on his back seat. The same website says searches have since taken place at two addresses in the city.
One of the victims has been named as Abdelkrim Hassen, a married father of three who worked in IT for the government. Prime Minister Trudeau has described the mass killing as a ‘terrorist attack on Muslims’.
‘We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge.”
‘While authorities are still investigating and details continue to be confirmed, it is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence. Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear.
‘Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country.
‘Canadian law enforcement agencies will protect the rights of all Canadians, and will make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators of this act and all acts of intolerance.
‘Tonight, we grieve with the people of Ste-Foy and all Canadians.’
Vigils were been planned to take place on Monday across the country as the first harrowing details of the shooting emerged.
Witnesses told how the gunmen burst into the mosque dressed in black waterproof jackets shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ at around 8pm.
One man who tried to stop them was shot in the face, Hamid Nadji told 24hours. One of the gunmen left the building twice to reload his weapon, he added.
Most of those inside the building were men praying on the ground floor while women and children were upstairs.
The mosque’s president Mohamed Yangui was left in total shock by the killings. ‘Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,’ he said.
Worshiper Ali Hamadi said he left the mosque a few minutes before the shooting but that his friend, married father-of-three Abdelkrim Hassen, died in the attack.
Police stood guard at the men’s entrance to the mosque on Monday after putting up a perimeter the night before. Surete de Quebec confirmed the incident was being investigated as a terrorist attack and that teams including bomb squads had been deployed.
The mayor of Gatineau, Quebec said there will be heightened security at mosques in the city after the attack.
Francois Deschamps, a member of a refugee-support group in Quebec City, said right-wing groups are very organized in Quebec City and distribute fliers at the university and plaster stickers around town.
Deschamps said he has received death threats after starting a refugee support group on Facebook and people have posted his address online.
‘I’m not very surprised about the event,’ Deschamps said.
Other cities are upping security in light of recent attacks at Muslim places of worship. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter: ‘The awful attack in Quebec is not an outlier. Today, a mosque in Texas was burned to the ground. We must stop those who seek to divide us.’
‘NYPD is providing additional protection for mosques in the city. All New Yorkers should be vigilant. If you see something, say something.’
French President Francois Hollande on Monday condemned ‘in the strongest possible terms’ what he called an ‘odious attack’.
‘It’s the spirit of peace and openness of the people of Quebec that the terrorists wanted to hit,’ added Hollande.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman condemned the ‘despicable’. Steffen Seibert said the German leader was shocked by the shooting.
Seibert said: ‘If the killers intended to set people of different faiths against each other or to divide them, they must not and will not succeed in that. We stand in mourning beside the Muslim community in Quebec.’
A pig’s head was left at the mosque last year during the holy month of Ramadan in another heinous attack.
Like France, Quebec has struggled at times to reconcile its secular identity with a rising Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants.
Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of Quebec was splattered with what was believed to be pig blood.
In the neighboring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015, a day after an attack by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris.
Yesterday, a Texas mosque was ravaged by a fire just hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting migration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
A clerk at a convenience store spotted smoke and flames billowing from the Islamic Center of Victoria at around 2am on Saturday.
The fire department spent more than four hours battling the blaze.
By Jennifer Smith, Julian Robinson and Kaileen Gaul, original source