Montreal, Quebec City police on high alert following New Zealand mosque shootings
Police forces in Montreal and Quebec City say they are on high alert following two deadly shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
They have confirmed officers will be increasing surveillance around mosques and potentially other places of worship. This includes one in Dorval, where it has been vandalized 12 times over the past couple of years.
At least 49 people are dead and many others seriously injured in Christchurch, located on New Zealand’s South Island, following the attacks during Friday prayers.
Forty-one of the victims were killed at Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue and seven were at a mosque on Linwood Avenue. Another died at Christchurch Hospital, Commissioner Mike Bush said at a news conference.
WATCH: Timeline of New Zealand mosque shootings
He added that no agency in New Zealand or Australia had any information on the suspects before the incidents.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it “absolutely appalling” and saying Canadians “join New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world in grieving.”
Quebec Premier François Legault noted that he understands “perfectly how [New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] feels today.”
“There is no place for extremism in our society. There is no place for intolerance,” he said, adding that his sincerest condolences are with the families of the victims.
“We cannot let violence take root in our democratic societies.”
According to the commissioner of the New Zealand police, one man in his late 20s has been charged with murder in connection with the incidents.
Three people were arrested, one of them born in Australia. Police said a fourth person was arrested Friday, but in an incident “not related to these events.”
Police say they are still trying to determine how the other two people taken into custody could be linked to the shooting.
A video has of the suspected gunman was allegedly broadcast live on Facebook.
Several social media sites are working to take down the video and any pictures allegedly related to the gunman, including a “manifesto” denouncing immigrants and pictures of deadly equipment apparently showing names of extremists and killers, including Quebec City mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette.
Mosque shooting in Quebec
Muslims in Quebec City say they are in shock after hearing about the mass shootings in Christchurch, a little more than two years after their community was attacked.
Bissonnette murdered six men at a mosque in the province’s capital in January 2017, and was sentenced on Feb. 8 to life behind bars without the possibility of parole for 40 years — the harshest prison term ever in Quebec.
Boufeldja Benabdallah, head of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, says his thoughts are also with the families of victims in Quebec City who are being forced to relive what they went through.
He adds people in his community are feeling indescribable pain and it’s time for lawmakers to legislate against extremism.
“I’m convinced they are feeling a terrible pain. Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask, ‘Why are you crying?”’ Benabdallah said.
“The mothers will remember the 29th, when they ran to get husbands who were killed by Alexandre Bissonnette.”
Benabdallah added that amid the mourning, it is time to speak out against extremism in all its forms.
WATCH BELOW: Quebec City mosque gunman Alexandre Bissonnette appeals sentence
“We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change,” Benabdallah said.
“The world cannot continue like this.”
The Christchurch shootings come days after Crown prosecutors filed an appeal handed down to the Quebec City killer.
Both the Crown and the attorney general are seeking to have the inadmissibility period raised to 50 years.
During sentencing, the Crown had sought 150 years, which could have been the longest sentence in Canadian history.
Lawyers for Bissonnette said they are also appealing the killer’s sentence, asking that he be eligible for parole in 25 years.
— with files from The Canadian Press.
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