Two suspects are in police custody following a deadly attack at a mosque in Québec City that left six worshipers dead and eight others severely injured on Sunday, Jan. 29.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to denounce the deadly episode, calling it a “terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge.” The ambush occurred just two days after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order permanently barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and temporarily suspending refugee admissions into the U.S. for travelers coming from seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East.
In response to Trump’s immigration ban, Trudeau openly welcomed refugees and others who had been barred from entering the U.S. to Canada, highlighting the nation’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
“It is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence,” he said on Monday following the mosque attack. “Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear.”
Of the eight individuals injured, five were critically wounded and remain in intensive care, according to officials at the Québec City International Hospital. Inspector Martin Plante of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also indicated that the six men killed during the deadly attack ranged from 39 to 60 years of age.
The Guardian reported that over 50 worshipers were at the Islamic Cultural Center of Québec for evening prayers when two masked gunmen — recently identified as Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed el Khadir — entered the two-story building and started shooting.
Police confirmed around noon on Monday that there was only one shooter involved in the attack and that the other “suspect” was being treated as a witness. It is still unclear whether Bissonnette or el Khadir was the actual shooter. Canadian authorities had initially declined to release further information on the suspects’ identities or a possible motive for the attack due to the pending investigation.
One witness to the shooting reported seeing two men dressed in all black and wearing ski masks enter the mosque and begin shooting at “everything that was moving.” The unnamed witness, who was laying on his stomach near the front of the house of worship at the time of the attack, told the Globe and Mail that one of the shooters must’ve been a weapons master because he was so calm.
“He killed and he killed,” the man said, adding that the shooter emptied his gun before moving on to another part of the mosque. “It was really horrible.”
“I’m shocked,” he continued. “We thought that here, we were in a safe city, a safe country. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
Denis Turcotte, the police inspector of Québec City, reported that one suspect was arrested at the scene, presumably the individual now being treated as a witness. The second suspect called authorities an hour later and identified himself as being involved in the shooting. Authorities located and arrested him near the Ile d’Orleans bridge, the Globe and Mail reported.
This isn’t the first targeted attack that has taken place at the Islamic Cultural Center of Québec. Last year, a bloody pig’s head was left at the door of the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, the BBC reported. Muslims consider pork an unclean meat and, therefore, do not consume it.
“I want to express my revolt to this villainous crime,” Mayor Régis Labeaume, said at an emotional press conference on Monday. “To the Muslim community, our neighbors, our co-citizens, who count on our support and solidarity, I want to say: We love you.”
The mosque has since taken to its Facebook Page to thank the public for its support and condolences.
This deadly shooting remains an active investigation.