Update: according to Canadian authorities, Mohamed Khadir has been cleared of suspicion and is now considered a witness. This leaves Bissonnette as the only suspect in the shooting.
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Following last night's deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque which killed six people and wounded eight, two suspects were under arrest and according to press reports have been identified: one is a French-Canadian and the other was of Moroccan heritage. One suspect was identified as Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, the other as Mohamed Khadir, who is of Moroccan heritage although his nationality was not immediately known.
Reuters adds that at least one of the suspects in the attack by two gunmen was a student at nearby Université Laval. Université Laval is the oldest French-language university in North America, with 42,500 students.
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. “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 added the suspects, both men, were not previously known to police.
One suspect was arrested at the mosque, where police were called at about 8 p.m. local time, and the other turned himself about an hour later, Quebec City Police Inspector Denis Turcotte said. Police said they were confident there were no other suspects involved in the attack. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier called the shooting "a terrorist attack on Muslims."
As observed previously, the shooting came over the weekend that Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees, after U.S. President Donald Trump halted the U.S. refugee program and temporarily barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States on national security grounds.
More details about the victims:
Five people were critically injured in the mosque attack and remained in intensive care, three of them in life-threatening condition, a spokeswoman for the Quebec City University Hospital said on Monday. Another 12 people were treated for minor injuries, she said. 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."
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.
Police launched an investigation last June after the severed head of a pig was left in front of one of the doors of the mosque, wrapped in cellophane with bows, ribbon and a card that read, “bonne appétit.” The incident took place during Ramadan, a month-long celebration during which Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. Muslim dietary laws forbid eating pork at any time. Three weeks later, an Islamophobic letter entitled “What is the most serious: a pig’s head or a genocide” was distributed in the vicinity.
In the neighboring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015, a day after an attack by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris.