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Suspect Charged With Premeditated Murder In Quebec Mosque Killings

  • RFE/RL

A French-Canadian student was charged with premeditated murder in the killing of six people at a mosque in Canada’s Quebec City in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "a terrorist attack."

Court documents on January 30 said that Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, who was known for taking right-wing, nationalist positions and supporting the French far-right party of Marine Le Pen, also was charged with five counts of attempted murder.

Mohamed el Khadir, a Canadian citizen of Moroccan descent, was detained as a witness. Police are describing the shootings during evening prayers on January 29 as a "lone wolf" attack.

Both Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard characterized the incident as a “terrorist” attack targeting Muslims.

In an address to parliament on January 30, Trudeau told the 1 million Muslims who live in Canada, "We are with you."

"Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours," he said. "Know that we value you."

"It is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence,” Trudeau said. "Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear."

He also said that Canadian law-enforcement agencies will "protect the rights of all Canadians, and will make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators of this act and all acts of intolerance."

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his condolences in a telephone conversation with Trudeau.

The mayor of the French capital, Paris, announced the lights on the Eiffel Tower will be switched off at midnight to honor the Quebec victims and send a "fraternal message" to Canada.

The mosque's president, who was not inside at the time, said the attack happened in the men's section of the mosque.

"Why is this happening here? This is barbaric," Mohamed Yangui told reporters.

On its Facebook page, the center thanked the public "for the hundreds of messages of compassion."

In June 2016, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a pig's head was left on the doorstep of the cultural center, accompanied by a note saying "bon appetit."

Eating pork is forbidden in Islam.

The mayor of Gatineau, also in Quebec, said there would be an increased police presence at mosques around his city following the attack.

In New York, police there said they were increasing patrols at mosques and other houses of worship.

The New York Police Department “is providing additional protection for mosques in the city,” Mayor Bill Blasio said on Twitter. "All New Yorkers should be vigilant. If you see something, say something."

In France, President Francois Hollande condemned "in the strongest possible terms" what he called an "odious attack" in Quebec.

"It's the spirit of peace and openness of the people of Quebec that the terrorists wanted to hit," Hollande said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman condemned the "despicable" attack.

"If the killers intended to set people of different faiths against each other or to divide them, they must not and will not succeed in that," Steffen Seibert said. "We stand in mourning beside the Muslim community in Quebec."

The attack in Quebec comes as Canada’s government vowed to open its arms wide to Muslim immigrants and refugees after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 27 suspending the entire U.S. refugee program and all immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said on January 29 that the country would offer temporary residence permits to people stranded in the country as a result of Trump's order.

Hussen also said Canada would continue to pursue an immigration policy based on "compassion."

"We welcome those fleeing persecution, terror, and war," he said, echoing an earlier Twitter post by Trudeau.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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