Police search for motive in deadly terror attack on Quebec City mosque
– Victims identified
– Suspect Alexandre Bissonnette charged with six counts of first degree murder
– National terrorism threat level unchanged, remains at medium
– 2 people remain in critical condition in a Quebec City hospital
-U.S. President Donald Trump called PM Trudeau to offer condolences
-Vigils planned in many Canadian cities.
Police are searching for a motive after at least one shooter opened fire at a mosque in Quebec City during evening prayers Sunday night, killing six people and critically injuring two others.
Sûreté du Québec (SQ) said two people were in custody after what officials called a terrorist attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec.
Police have yet to release the names of the people arrested but several French media outlets identified them as Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed Belkhadir. The SQ said only one person arrested is considered a suspect and the other is considered a witness.
Police said the victims of the bloody massacre ranged in age from 39 to about 60. All were men. At least 12 others were treated for minor injuries. The victims have been as identified as Mamadou Tanou Barry, Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Azzeddine Soufiane and Ibrahima Barry.
Addressing the House of Commons in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated the attack on the mosque was an act of terrorism.
“This was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith,” Trudeau said. “Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack.”
“To the injured, to the family members of these innocent victims, to the people of Quebec and to all Canadians, know that we will get to the bottom of this,” Trudeau said. “Such senseless violence has no place in Canadian society.”
The prime minister addressed Canada’s Muslim community directly in his statement in the House of Commons.
“To the more than one million Canadians who profess the Muslim faith…we are with you. Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours,” Trudeau said.
On Monday morning, a spokesperson for l’Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus said five people injured in the shooting were being treated at the hospital. Two of the victims are listed in critical condition and three were in stable condition.
“Five people injured in critical condition at the hospital Jesus, those people spent a portion of the night in the operation block and they have all made it out of the operational block,” Geneviève Dupuis said. “As of now it’s impossible to give you the details of their health status. But what we can tell you is they’re hospitalized, they spent a portion of the night in surgery.”
As of Monday morning, little is known about the two people in custody. Citing a source close to the investigation, Radio-Canada reported police are investigating whether the suspects attended Laval University.
Speaking with reporters, Éric Bauce, executive vice-president and development at Laval University, said he could not confirm the suspects are students at the post-secondary institution, adding that the school is in direct contact with police.
During a press conference Monday morning, the SQ and RCMP said one man was arrested at the scene of the attack, while the second man fled the scene and later called 911 from his car. Police said the suspect identified himself as being involved in the shooting and wanted to co-operate with officers.
He was arrested around 9 p.m. near Ile d’Orleans, about 35 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
“We are still in the early stage in the investigation. We are still trying to determine the facts associated with the incident, so, and not to interfere with the progress of the investigation, we are not going to discuss the specifics at this time,” the RCMP said.
READ MORE: Anti-Muslim incidents in Quebec: a timeline
Speaking at a press conference, the vice-president of the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec broke down in tears when describing the attack.
“The ones that were targeted the most were the ones that were standing and praying. It is really a horrible tragedy,” Mohamed Labidi told reporters. “It warms my heart to see the number of journalists who are here and the honourable ministers at the federal and provincial level.
“Everyone brought their solidarity behind the whole Canadian population. We are really touched by the solidarity and it warms my heart, and lessens our grief,” an emotional Labidi said.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard repeatedly called for solidarity in a news conference on Sunday.
In a message to Quebec’s Muslim community he said, “We are with you, this is your home, we are all Quebecers.”
WATCH: Philippe Couillard calls attacks on Muslims a tragedy
Couillard added that he doesn’t expect further terrorist attacks, but that people need to be prepared.
“Quebec City today has been hit by terrorism. Hard to believe such a peaceful, beautiful city that such a thing could happen,” Couillard said.
WATCH: Mosque president breaks down discussing Quebec City shooting
On Sunday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) also condemned the attack and said Islamophobia is on the rise in Canada.
“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 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,” national president Lal Khan Malik said in a statement. “We are taking steps to ensure that all members of the community feel secure and safe.”
Late Sunday, Trudeau called the attack cowardly and said his thoughts were with the victims and their families.
“Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country,” the prime minister said in a statement.
“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 Sainte-Foy and all Canadians.”
Trudeau will travel Monday to Quebec City following his statement in the House of Commons.
Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose will also travel to Quebec after she accepted an invitation from the prime minister.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Trudeau received a call from U.S. President Donald Trump, expressing his condolences to the prime minister and people of Canada.
Trump also offered to provide “any assistance as needed.”
During a White House briefing Monday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed the “vicious attack” in Quebec City, while calling it a “terrible reminder why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.”
WATCH: President Trump offers full military and intelligence support to PM Trudeau following mosque attack
Trump on Friday signed an executive order blocking entry to the U.S. for travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations.
World leaders also condemned Sunday night’s “odious attack” on the Quebec City mosque.
In a statement early Monday morning, French President François Hollande said “France stands by the victims and their families.”
“The terrorists wanted to attack the spirit of peace and tolerance of the citizens of Quebec,” Hollande said. “France stands at the sides of the victims and their families.”
France has suffered from a string of terror attacks, including the 2015 attack on a concert hall, soccer stadium and a café in Paris that left 130 people dead; and last July, the deadly rampage on a large crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.
Pope Francis condemned the bloodshed in Quebec and, as the Associated Press points out, conveyed his condolences in person to the Archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Gerald LaCroix.
“The Holy Father firmly condemns the violence that engenders such suffering, and begs the Lord for the gift of mutual respect and peace,” the pope said in a statement.
Photos show the pope embracing the Archbishop of Quebec, hugging LaCroix at the Vatican. Following the meeting, the archbishop left the Rome to return to Quebec, the Associated Press reported.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris will go dark at midnight Monday, to show support to “Quebec and the Canadian people.”
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