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Quebec mosque shooting: Police arrest a suspect and a witness

BBC News

Police say one person is being treated as a suspect in a deadly shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, Canada.

Sunday’s attack on the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre left six people dead, five people in a critical condition and 12 others injured.

Police detained two men following the shooting, but said one of them was being treated as a witness.

One man was arrested at the scene and a second man held after he called 911, police said.

Who has been arrested?

One suspect, reportedly a French-Canadian university student, is expected to appear in a Quebec City courtroom on Monday afternoon.

He had no police record before the incident, authorities said.

A man of Moroccan descent who was also arrested is now being considered a witness, law enforcement sources have told local media.

Investigators have yet to give a motive for the shootings, citing an ongoing investigation.

Canadian authorities said they did not believe there were any additional suspects and they were confident the threat was “under control”.

At the scene – Jessica Murphy, BBC News

The streets around the mosque are mostly deserted except for the police investigators milling around the cordoned-off site.

Noemie Roussel Paradis is standing alone across from the empty mosque holding a Quran. She is a proud convert to Islam and came to pay her respects after “this murder, this attack, this act of terrorism”, even though this was not the mosque where she prays.

“This is Allah’s home, and there was blood spilled on the floor,” she said.

She said it’s likely that she shared a Ramadan meal with one of the people who was in the mosque during the attack. “The only thing we can do now is cry and hope that Allah will make those responsible face their actions,” she said.

Nearby, Martin St-Louis is holding a large wooden board, its painted message carrying a call for peace.

“Where terror stands or walks, peace must stand,” he said. “I’m no philosopher or priest, but for those people who fall, we have to stand.”

More than 50 people were at the mosque when shots were fired.

The six dead were aged between about 35 and 65, Canadian authorities have confirmed.

Azzedine Soufiane, a father of three children and a businessman, was among those killed in the attacks, the BBC confirmed.

He was active in welcoming new immigrants to Quebec City.

Police have also increased security efforts at all religious sites in the province as 75 provincial officers work on the case.

Was this a terrorist attack?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard both described the shooting as a terrorist attack, but authorities were reluctant to label it as such.

The attack came as protests over US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim countries gripped the US.

When asked if Mr Trump’s actions influenced the attack, Mr Couillard said no, but added: “We are obviously in a world where people tend to divide themselves rather than unite themselves”.

Mr Trump called Mr Trudeau on Monday to offer his condolences and any assistance in the wake of the attack.

The president of the mosque, Mohamed Yangui – who was not inside at the time – said the shooting had happened in the men’s section of the mosque.

“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” he said.

On its Facebook page the centre thanked the public “for the hundreds of messages of compassion”.

In June last year the same mosque was the target of an Islamophobic incident when a pig’s head was left in front of the building, with a card saying “bonne appetit”.

Eating pork is forbidden in Islam.

Quebec’s immigrant community

The province has welcomed thousands of immigrants from Arab countries and other nations.

But it has also struggled with what it means to accommodate those newcomers into the province’s broader whole.

The predominantly French-speaking province fiercely protects its linguistic identity and its secularism, and there has been a longstanding debate over the “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants and religious minorities.

Arab Canadians have settled in Quebec, especially from countries with some French cultural background such as Lebanon, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Many found jobs and built communities, but have also said they felt targeted by some of the political rhetoric.

For example, proposals to ban the niqab have found more fertile ground in the province than in other parts of the country.

Quebec also has strong political links to France, where similar debates have raged.

In recent months, there have been reports across the province of Islamophobic incidents, including one targeting the Ste-Foy mosque.

Despite the message of unity from across the political spectrum and the population in the wake of the attack, Haroun Bouazzi, president of a human rights group in Montreal, says that “Quebec Muslims are frightened right now”.


Khaled El Kacemi, vice-president of the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, grieves during a news conference GETTY IMAGES

A Muslim leader in the city says he is not surprised by the attack

A pig’s head was left outside the mosque last June QUEBEC ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTRE

Vigils to remember the victims are planned for Monday in the capital Ottawa as well as Quebec City, Montreal, Troi-Rivieres and Saguenay REUIERS

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