Quebec City mosque shooting: Alexandre Bissonnette charged with 6 counts of 1st degree murder
The man suspected of killing six people and wounding 19 others at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday appeared in court Monday
Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, was charged with six counts of first degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.
Police had reportedly taken two men into custody Sunday but Surete du Quebec said in a statement just after noon Monday the second person is considered a witness, but they did not offer any names. Media reports identified the “witness” as Mohamed Belkhadir.
WATCH: PM Trudeau condemns terrorist attack on Quebec City mosque in Parliament
The horrific attacks occurred inside the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec in Quebec City’s Ste-Foy neighbourhood just before 8 p.m. ET, when a masked gunman entered the building and opened fire, according to witnesses and police.
The gunmen used a semi-automatic weapon, sources told Reuters.
VIDEO GALLERY: Quebec City shooting
The victims were identified as Mamadou Tanou Barry, Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Azzeddine Soufiane and Ibrahima Barry.
Five people remain in hospital, with two of those in critical condition and the three others stable. At least 14 others suffered minor injuries and were released, according to the University of Quebec Hospital Centre spokeswoman Genevieve Dupuis.
Thirty-nine people escaped the mosque shooting without injuries.
Quebec police say one man was arrested at the scene of the attack and the second person called 911 from his car, saying he was armed but was willing to co-operate with police.
“For the moment, nothing leads us to believe there are other suspects linked to the event, but you’ll understand we’re not taking chances and we’re making necessary verifications to make sure there aren’t any,” police spokesperson Christine Coulombe told The Canadian Press.
Insp. Denis Turcotte of the Quebec City police force said the second suspect stopped his car and said he was waiting for police to arrest him. He was taken into custody near Ile d’Orleans around 9 p.m.
What we know about Alexandre Bissionnette
A home where Bissonnette reportedly lived in the Quebec City suburb of Cap-Rouge was searched by police Monday morning, according to multiple reports. Police descended on several other locations around Quebec City as part of an ongoing investigation.
Bissonnette was studying political science and anthropology at the University of Laval but had been expelled, a university official told Global News.
He was a cerebral “nerdy outcast,” said former high school classmate Simon de Billy, adding the suspect and his twin brother were inseparable.
“He was an avid reader, knew a lot about history and about current issues, current politics, those kinds of topics,” de Billy said. “He was just a bit of a loner, always with his twin brother, didn’t have any friends.
“He wasn’t physically strong or imposing, and probably got a bit of a hard time, was probably not taken seriously. … He would be kind of made fun of, the butt of the jokes.”
“We’ve seen a lot of talk from ‘the far right,’” Deschamps said. “Him, he made statements on our Facebook page. He acted like a troll. He attacked the rights of women.”
According to Bisonnette’s Facebook page, which has been taken down, his “likes” include the leader of France’s far right party Marine Le Pen, critics of Islam Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Donald Trump. However he also “likes” the NDP and former leader Jack Layton.
Bissonette was a member of the Cadet Program in the Quebec City area between 2002 and 2004, according to a statement released by Cadets Canada.
“We wish to extend our deepest condolences to all those affected by this terrible tragedy,” the organization said in the statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this most difficult time.”
‘A despicable act of terror’
Police have not released a motive for the shooting but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and officials in Quebec have called it an act of terrorism.
“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” Trudeau said in an emotional speech in the House of Commons. “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,” he said.
READ MORE: Anti-Muslim incidents in Quebec: a timeline
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the shooting should be treated as terror attack.
“It’s a murderous act directed at a specific community,” he told reporters at news conference early Monday morning. “I think the majority of citizens, not just in Quebec but elsewhere, would describe it that way.”
Members of Canada’s Muslim community condemned the attack, with many calling for tighter security around other mosques in the country. The Quebec mosque where the shooting occurred had previously been targeted by hate crimes, including an incident last summer when gift-wrapped pig’s head was placed at the entrance to the building during Ramadan.
“The fact that the attack was on a mosque strongly suggests that this was a hate crime and an act of terrorism. This is the nightmare scenario that Canadian Muslims have been dreading,” Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s executive director, said in a statement. “There is already a growing and documented climate of Islamophobia in Canada. There are legitimate fears that Trump’s so-called Muslim ban and accompanying rhetoric will lead to more hate, and further acts of violence like this.”
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama, one of the largest Muslim communities in Canada, also spoke out against the attack.
“We are deeply saddened by the attack that took place in a mosque in Quebec City and we pray for the rapid recovery of the wounded,” said national president Lal Khan Malik. “We are taking steps to ensure that all members of the community feel secure and safe.”
— With files from Adam Frisk, Reuters, The Canadian Press and the Associated Press
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