Two men were arrested following last night’s shooting at a Quebec City mosque that left six people dead and 18 wounded, in what Quebec’s premier described as a “murderous act directed at a specific community.”
Thirty-nine people escaped the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec (Islamic cultural centre of Quebec) in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood without injuries, according to Quebec provincial police Sgt. Christine Coulombe.
Initially, it was reported that eight people were wounded, but authorities updated that number to 19 Monday morning.
Five were still in critical condition in hospital Monday morning, including three people who are in intensive care. Another 13 people have been released, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Coulombe said the people who died in the shooting, which occurred during Sunday evening prayers, ranged in age from 35 to 70.
One of the two men arrested was not far from the scene of the shooting, while the other was arrested near l’île d’Orléans, five kilometres from downtown Quebec City, following a police chase of the SUV he was driving.
Police called special technicians to where the chase ended, because they believed explosives may have been inside the SUV. Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language service, reported a gun was found inside the vehicle.
Police are investigating whether the two men attended Laval University, a source close to the investigation told Radio-Canada. A search is underway at a home in Sainte-Foy.
Police have erected perimeters and road blocks in other areas of Quebec City as part of their investigation.
Premier Philippe Couillard said the shooting should be treated as an act of terrorism.
“It’s a murderous act directed at a specific community,” he said at a news conference just after 1:30 a.m. ET.
“I think the majority of citizens, not just in Quebec but elsewhere, would describe it that way.”
Earlier, Couillard said, “Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence.” He also offered solidarity with the families of the victims.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the shooting as a “terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge.”
“Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country,” said Trudeau in a statement.
Attack on the ground floor
Quebec City police Const. Étienne Doyon said men were mostly inside the mosque when the shooting began just before 8 p.m.
The men were praying on the ground floor of the building, while women and children were upstairs.
By 10:40 p.m., police said the situation was under control.
“The building is secure and the occupants evacuated. The investigation continues,” tweeted Quebec City police, who are working with the RCMP and provincial police.
A Québécois accent’
A witness who asked to remain anonymous told Radio-Canada that two masked individuals entered the mosque.
“It seemed to me that they had a Québécois accent. They started to fire, and as they shot, they yelled, ‘Allahu akbar!’ The bullets hit people that were praying. People who were praying lost their lives. A bullet passed right over my head.
“There were even kids. There was even a three-year-old who was with his father,” the witness said.