Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday condemned as a “terrorist attack” a Quebec City incident that saw gunmen open fire at a mosque, killing at least six people.
“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge,” Trudeau said in a statement. “Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, city and country.”
He added that it is “heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence” and vowed that Canadian law enforcement “will make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators of this act and all acts of intolerance.”
Philippe Couillard, premier of Quebec, also branded the shooting a “terrorist act,” in and in a tweet called for “solidarity with Quebecers of the Muslim faith.”
Up to 40 people were inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center on Sunday when unidentified gunmen opened fire on worshipers gathered for evening prayers, according to local reports.
It was not immediately clear how many people carried out the attack, but Quebec police said two suspects had been arrested. Christine Coulombe, the Quebec Provincial Police spokeswoman, said one person was arrested at the scene and the other nearby in d’Orleans. She said police were treating the attack as a “terrorist act.”
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.
Posted by Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec on Sunday, 29 January 2017
Police initially said five people were killed, but on Monday raised the death toll to six. At least eight others were injured in the shooting.
Coulombe said some of the wounded were gravely injured. She added that the dead were approximately 35 to 70 years of age.
President Reuven Rivlin on Monday condemned the “horrific attack on a house of prayer,” and offered condolences to the victims of the shooting.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) January 30, 2017
The Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, which is also known as the grand mosque of Quebec, had already been the target of hate: A pig’s head was left on the doorstep last June during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The attack came as Canada vowed to open its arms to Muslims and refugees after US President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban Friday sparked travel chaos and outrage around the world.
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
Francois Deschamps, an organizer of a refugee-support group in Quebec City, said the motive was unknown, but right-wing groups are very organized in Quebec City and distribute fliers at the university and plaster stickers around town.
Deschamps said he has personally received death threats after starting a refugee support group on Facebook and people have posted his address online.
“I’m not very surprised about the event,” Deschamps said.
Canada is generally very welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but it’s less so in the French-speaking province of Quebec.