Canadian police have charged a political science French-Canadian student over the shooting at a mosque in Quebec which killed six Muslim worshippers.
Alexandre Bissonnette faces six counts of first-degree murders and five attempted murders. He appeared briefly before the Quebec City court over Sunday evening’s attack.
At the time of the shooting, which happened close to 8:00 PM on Sunday, more than 50 people were inside the mosque.
A total of nineteen people were injured – all men – and two are still in critical condition.
Mohamed Khadir, a man of Moroccan heritage who was also arrested after the attack is now being treated as a witness.
Quebec provincial police released the names of all six victims who were killed.
Mr. Bissonnette appeared in the court on Monday in a white prison-issued jumpsuit, with his hands and feet shackled; he didn’t enter a plea.
He was arrested on a bridge leading from Quebec City to Ile d’Orleans in his car when he called the police to say that he wanted to cooperate with the authorities.
Local media reports suggest that Mr. Bissonnette studied political science and anthropology at Laval University. The campus is around 3 KMs away from the mosque.
The Montreal Gazette reported that the suspect dressed as a Grim Reaper on Halloween, according to his Facebook page, which has been taken offline. It is also said that he liked U.S. President Donald Trump and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen on his social network account.
One of the officials with an advocacy group Welcome to Refugees, Francois Deschamps said that the suspect was known for his far-right views. Mr. Deschamps wrote this on the organization’s Facebook page:
“It’s with pain and anger that we learn the identity of terrorist Alexandre Bissonnette, unfortunately, known to many activists in Quebec for taking nationalist, pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist positions at Laval University and on social media.”
The incident has been described as a terrorist attack by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who while addressing more than one million Muslims living in Canada said:
“We are with you. Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours. Know that we value you.”
The shooting came at a time when there’s heightened global tensions over Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim countries, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the attack was an example why the U.S. president’s policies are needed. While condemning the attack, he stated that the attack was a reminder why pro-active, rather than reactive security measures are required.
This mosque has been a target of hate crimes previously as well, only last summer a pig’s head was left on the doorstep during Ramadan.
The vice-president of the Islamic Center, Mohamed Labidi said the victims had been shot in the back. Security was a primary concern for the mosque, but “we’re taken off-guard.”
The predominantly French province of Quebec has welcomed thousands of immigrants from Arab countries, but there has been a longstanding debate on “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants and religious minorities.