Quebec– There has been growing confusion and fear in Canada’s Quebec City after a 27-year-old man opened fire at a mosque, killing several worshipers and injuring eight others.
During Sunday evening prayers, Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, shot and killed six people at the mosque of Quebec Islamic Cultural Center.
He has been charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder while using a restricted firearm.
Along with the six killed, five people were in critical condition and three others suffered minor injuries.
Earlier, police said they had arrested two men, including one who called 911 to say he was armed but ready to give himself up, but later said just one person remained a suspect. Authorities later clarified that the other man, Mohamed el-Khadir was just a witness.
The suspect made a brief court appearance on Monday at a Quebec City court where he did not enter a plea. He was wearing handcuffs and a white prisoner jumpsuit and will remain in custody until his next court appearance on February 21.
Jean-Pascal Boucher, spokesperson for the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales, the provincial prosecutor’s office, would not comment on the case on Tuesday, and only said that Bissonnette would face 11 charges.
Bissonnette is a political science and anthropology student at Laval University, which is near the mosque. On Monday afternoon, Laval University confirmed that he is a student, and barred him from all activities effective immediately until all judicial proceedings are over.
He is known for his radical ideas. A Facebook page reportedly belonging to Bissonnette included “likes” for U.S. President Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate. He was also a cadet and trained at a local shooting club.
Neighbors of Bissonnette’s parents said he was renting an apartment with his twin brother near the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center, where the shooting took place .
One of his former classmates described Bissonnette as very introverted.
“He’s a very closed-off young man,” Bissonnette’s neighbor told Radio-Canada.
Montreal’s La Presse newspaper reported Sunday night that the incident is being treated as a terrorist attack, although the police would not confirm that.
The newspaper quoted an informed source as saying that Bissonnette hated Muslims and made it clear during the interrogation.
The police deployed 80 officers around the center and intensified the security patrols around schools and mosques in Muslim areas of several Canadian cities.
Majdi Dridi of the Muslim Association of Canada said he knew two of the victims. He added that previously, the association had contacted the police demanding more security around the mosques in Quebec.
Dridi doesn’t believe that a second attack would happen, and that families should be reassured.
“I don’t know what to say, I just hope that his family and his children can have the patience to accept what happened,” Dridi said about one of the victims.