'One suspect in Quebec attack is French-Canadian, one of Moroccan heritage'

One suspect in Sunday evening's attack was identified as Alexandre Bissonnette and the other as Mohamed Khadir.

FILE: Canadian police officers respond to a shooting in a mosque at the Québec City Islamic cultural center on Sainte-Foy Street in Quebec city on January 29, 2017. Picture: AFP.

QUEBEC CITY - Two suspects were under arrest after six people were killed in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque, police said on Monday, and a source said one was French-Canadian and the other was of Moroccan heritage.

One suspect in Sunday evening's attack was identified as Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, the other as Mohamed Khadir, who is of Moroccan descent although his nationality was not immediately known, according to the source.

Bissonnette is a 27-year-old student at nearby Université Laval, said a former high school classmate, Simon de Billy.
Police declined to give details of the suspects' identities or possible motives for the attack during evening prayers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Five people were critically injured, and 12 were treated for minor injuries,
a spokeswoman for the Quebec City University Hospital said.

“Legal procedures are now underway and we cannot make any comment on the identity of the suspects,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police national security superintendent Martin Plante told a news conference. He said the suspects, both men, were not previously known to police.

One suspect was arrested at the mosque, where police were called at about 8pm local time, and the other turned himself about an hour later, Quebec City Police Inspector Denis Turcotte said.

Police said they were confident no other suspects were involved in the attack.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier called the shooting "a terrorist attack on Muslims." He was heading to Quebec City later on Monday, a spokesman said.

US President Donald Trump called Trudeau to express his condolences "and offered to provide any assistance as needed," said Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad. He gave no further details about of the call.

The shooting came over a weekend when Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees, speaking in response to Trump's order to halt the US refugee program and to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Trump's action, which the president said was aimed at protecting Americans from the threat of attacks by militant Islamists, was widely condemned in the United States and abroad as targeting Muslims.

A father of four, the owner of a halal butcher near the mosque, was among those killed, said Pamela Sakinah El-hayet, a friend of one of the people at the mosque.

The mosque concierge was killed, as was Ahmed Youness, a 21-year-old student, El-hayet told Reuters. One of El-hayet’s friends, Youness’ roommate, was in the mosque at the time of the shooting. He was unharmed, she said, but in total shock.

Ali Assafiri, a student at Université Laval, said he had been running late for the evening prayers at the mosque, near the university in the Quebec City area. When he arrived, the mosque had been transformed by police into a crime scene.

"Everyone was in shock," Assafiri said by phone. "It was chaos."

Université Laval is the oldest French-language university in North America, with 42,500 students.

Vigils were planned for Montreal and Quebec City, the provincial capital, as well as in Edmonton later on Monday.

There was an outpouring of support for the mosque on social media.

While the motive for the shooting was not known, incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years.

The face-covering, or niqab, became a big issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election, especially in Quebec, where the majority of the population supported a ban on it at citizenship ceremonies.

Pope Francis offered his condolences to Cardinal Gerald Cyprien LaCroix, Archbishop of Quebec, who was visiting Rome on Monday.

"The pope underlined how important it is in these moments that everyone remains united in prayer, Christians and Muslims," the Vatican said in a statement.