QUEBEC CITY: A Canadian political science student known to have nationalist sympathies was charged on Monday with six counts of murder over a shooting spree at a Quebec mosque — one of the worst attacks ever to target Muslims in a western country.
Eight people were also wounded in the crossfire, and five of them remained in critical condition in hospital on Monday.
Alexandre Bissonnette, who made a brief court appearance after surrendering to authorities, was charged with six counts of premeditated murder and five of attempted murder, police said. More indictments are expected later, police added. So far, authorities have shed no light on what may have prompted the attack.
Local media said Bissonnette is a Quebec nationalist and anti-feminist who recently “liked” US President Donald Trump’s page on Facebook. He also has reportedly expressed support for French far-right politician Marine Le Pen.
Both police and witnesses had initially described two masked men opening fire inside the mosque, where worshippers were gathered for evening prayer. But authorities said on Monday that a second person detained had only been questioned as a witness.
The dead are all dual Canadian nationals: one Moroccan, two Algerians, one Tunisian and two Guineans. Quebec has traditionally attracted Muslim immigrants from North Africa.
Bissonnette, who is a student at Laval University, surrendered 20 kilometres outside the city after calling an emergency services hotline an hour after the attack to reveal his location.
Le Pen’s party calls attack ‘deplorable’
A spokesman at France’s National Front Party says the terrorist attack in Canada against Muslims at a Quebec City mosque is “deplorable”. But Alex Frederiksen tells The Associated Press that the far-right party is not commenting on news that suspect Bissonnette supported their party leader Marine Le Pen, who’s known for her anti-Islam message. Frederiksen said on Tuesday that “It’s deplorable, but Marine Le Pen should not excuse herself for comments people make on their private Facebook pages.”
Rented apartment close to mosque
Bissonnette had rented an apartment nearby, suggesting he may have been targeting the house of worship, local media reported on Tuesday. He had recently moved into an apartment near the mosque with his twin brother, an unnamed neighbour of their parents told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Bissonnette did not hide his hostility towards Muslims during his long interrogation by police, Montreal’s La Presse newspaper, quoting a source close to the investigation. He was also interested in guns, and practiced shooting at a local club near the provincial capital, La Presse reported.