Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Photos: Quebec mosque attack suspect charged with six counts of murder

 A French-Canadian university student known for far-right nationalist views was charged with six counts of murder over the shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday.

The 27-year-old suspect identified as Alexandre Bissonnette made a brief court appearance and did not enter a plea on the attack which left six people dead and 19 others wounded during evening prayers.
Bissonnette, who has espoused support for the French far-right party of Marine Le Pen and had liked U.S. President Donald Trump on his Facebook page, was known to those who monitor extremist groups in Quebec, said François Deschamps, an official with a refugee advocacy group.

"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," Deschamps wrote on the Facebook page of the group, Bienvenues aux Refugiés, or Welcome to Refugees.

An anthropology and political science major at Laval University in Quebec City, Bissonnette had also expressed support on his Facebook profile for “Génération Nationale,” a group whose manifesto includes the rejection of “multiculturalism."

Among the six men killed were a butcher, a university professor, a pharmacist and an accountant, according to police and Canadian media. Police declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec.

A man of Moroccan descent who had also been arrested was now considered a witness, although his nationality was not immediately known, the Canadian source said.

Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau, who has made a point of welcoming refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, told parliament in Ottawa: "Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack."

Trudeau, who visited the Mosque on Monday, added a personal message to Canada's 1 million Muslims:

"Know that we value you. You enrich our shared country in immeasurable ways. It is your home. Last night's horrible crime against the Muslim community was an act of terror committed against Canada and against all Canadians. We will grieve with you. We will defend you. We will love you. And we will stand with you."

In addition to the six killed, five people were critically injured and 12 were treated for minor injuries, a spokeswoman for the Quebec City University Hospital said.

Federal Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters in Ottawa there was no change to "the national terrorism threat level" from medium because "there is no information known to the government of Canada that would lead to a change at this time."

Over the weekend, Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees, his response to an executive order by Trump on Friday to halt the U.S. refugee programme and to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Trump's action, which the president said was "not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe," 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."

Additional reporting by REUTERS

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