At least five people were killed and several were wounded after gunmen opened fire at a mosque in Quebec City in Canada late Sunday during evening prayers, according to various media reports.
A Quebec police spokesman confirmed that there were people killed, but did not say how many.
Two suspects in the shooting were arrested, he said. Police did not rule out the possibility of a third suspect who had fled the scene.
Up to 40 people were inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center when the shooting began just after 8:00 pm local time (0100 GMT Monday), Reuters reported.
According to CBC, Quebec City Police Constable Etienne Doyon said at the time of the attack mostly men were gathered at the mosque for evening prayers.
Police set up a perimeter around the mosque.
One of the suspects had an AK-47, the French-language La Presse reported, adding that one of the two was also aged 27 and possessed a local, French-sounding name.
“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui, said according to Reuters. Yangui was not inside the mosque when the shooting occurred.
Last June, during the Muslim month of Ramadan, a gift-wrapped pig’s head was left outside the premises of the center with a card reading “bon appétit.”
“They put a pig’s head [outside the mosque], they told us it was an isolated incident but today we have fatalities,” said Yangui, according to La Presse.
A pig's head was left in June at the Quebec mosque where tonight's shooting happened. https://t.co/P4mv6dffgE
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 30, 2017
In 2014, the mosque was also the target of hate mail, the Huffington Post reported.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard termed the shooting an act of “barbaric violence” and expressed solidarity with victims’ families.
Quebec Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter Sunday that he is deeply saddened by the loss of life. His office says no motive has been confirmed.
Canadia Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday “Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.”
Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 30, 2017
The attack comes as Canada has vowed to provide a temporary home to Muslims and refugees after US President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban Friday sparked travel chaos and outrage around the world.
Canada will offer temporary residence permits to people stranded in the country as a result of Trump’s order, the immigration ministry said Sunday.
“Let me assure those who may be stranded in Canada that I will use my authority as minister to provide them with temporary residency if needed as we have done in the past,” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said at a news conference.
Trump has suspended the arrival of all refugees to the US for at least 120 days and barred entry for 90 days to people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Hussen, who is of Somali origin, did not condemn the US measure but stressed that Canada would continue to pursue an immigration policy based on “compassion” while at the same time protecting the security of its citizens.
“We welcome those fleeing persecution, terror and war,” he said, echoing a welcoming Twitter post by Trudeau on Saturday.
According to the latest Canadian census, from 2011, one out of five people in the country are foreign-born.
Canada has welcomed more than 39,670 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and early January 2017, according to government figures.