By Allison Lampert
QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) – Two suspects were under arrest after a shooting at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday evening killed six people and wounded eight, police said on Monday, and a source said one was French-Canadian and the other was of Moroccan heritage.
At least one of the suspects in the attack by two gunmen was a student at nearby Université Laval, the source said.
One suspect was identified as Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, the other as Mohamed Khadir, who is of Moroccan heritage although his nationality was not immediately known, according to the source.
Police declined to give details of the suspects’ identities or possible motives for the attack during evening prayers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec.
“Legal procedures are now underway and we cannot make any comment on the identity of the suspects,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police national security superintendent Martin Plante told a news conference. He added the suspects, both men, were not previously known to police.
One suspect was arrested at the mosque, where police were called at about 8 p.m. local time, and the other turned himself about an hour later, Quebec City Police Inspector Denis Turcotte said.
Police said they were confident there were no other suspects involved in the attack.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier called the shooting “a terrorist attack on Muslims.”
The shooting came over the weekend that Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees, after U.S. President Donald Trump halted the U.S. refugee program and temporarily barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States on national security grounds.
Trump’s action was widely condemned in the United States and abroad as targeting Muslims.
FATHER OF FOUR AMONG THOSE KILLED
Five people were critically injured in the mosque attack and remained in intensive care, three of them in life-threatening condition, a spokeswoman for the Quebec City University Hospital said on Monday.
Another 12 people were treated for minor injuries, she said.
A father of four, the owner of a halal butcher near the mosque, was among those killed, said Pamela Sakinah El-hayet, a friend of one of the people at the mosque.
The mosque concierge was killed, as was Ahmed Youness, a 21-year-old student, El-hayet told Reuters. One of El-hayet’s friends, Youness’ roommate, was in the mosque at the time of the shooting. He was unharmed, she said, but in total shock.
Ali Assafiri, a student at Université Laval, said he had been running late for the evening prayers at the mosque, near the university in the Quebec City area. When he arrived, the mosque had been transformed by police into a crime scene.
“Everyone was in shock,” Assafiri said by phone. “It was chaos.”
Université Laval is the oldest French-language university in North America, with 42,500 students.
There was an outpouring of support for the mosque on social media, and vigils were planned for Montreal and Quebec City, the provincial capital, as well as Edmonton later on Monday.
While the motive for the shooting was not known, 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 majority of the population supported a ban on it at citizenship ceremonies.
Pope Francis offered his condolences to Cardinal Gerald Cyprien LaCroix, Archbishop of Quebec, who was visiting Rome on Monday. Francis said he was praying for the victims of the attack.
“The pope underlined how important it is in these moments that everyone remains united in prayer, Christians and Muslims,” the Vatican said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Dougherty in Quebec City and Alastair Sharp and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Writing by Andrea Hopkins, Alastair Sharp and Frances Kerry; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)