Several people were killed and multiple others wounded when masked gunmen opened fire on a congregation of worshipping Muslims in Quebec City last night.
The Associated Press, citing the president of the mosque, reported five people are dead. Police said several were dead, but did not confirm the death toll. They also said two people were arrested. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s French-language service Radio-Canada reported multiple people were feared wounded.
CBC reported that a witness told Radio-Canada that two masked gunmen entered the mosque during evening prayers.
“It seemed to me that they had a Quebecois 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,” said the unidentified witness. “There were even kids. There was even a 3-year-old who was with his father.”
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Reuters, citing a witness, reported that up to three gunmen opened fire on about 40 people in the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center.
Quebec City police spokesman Etienne Doyon said two gunmen were arrested. Of reports of another shooter, he said, “The investigation has not ended. We will be trying to verify if there is a third or fourth or any other person involved. We’re not ruling out that there may be other suspects.”
“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui, according to Reuters, which reported that last June a pig’s head was left at the mosque’s door.
Yangui said the Sunday evening prayers usually attract 60 to 100 people, mostly men — women would have been on the second floor, above the shooting scene, according to the Hamilton Spectator.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.”
Police set up a perimeter around the mosque, news agencies reported. Numerous ambulances were lined up outside of the center in the city’s Sainte-Foy district.
There was no immediate word on the number or the condition of the wounded.
Yusufi Vali, executive director at Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, said local Muslims, while shaken, will remain steadfast in practicing their faith and embracing the larger community.
“Obviously it raises concerns, but I have to tell you, we’re not going to let this kind of stuff happening in Canada and other places change who we are,” he said. “We’re going to remain steadfast in our faith, and remain steadfast in our identity as Americans and Bostonians … Boston has stood together with the Muslim community through the years. I expect that to continue.”
John Robbins of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, “Our hearts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible incident. In a climate in which Muslims become scapegoats, we can only imagine that they will continue to be targeted in this way.”
Citing President Trump’s entry ban on people from some Muslim-majority nations, Robbins said, “It’s a cruel irony that insofar as American Muslims may want to go and provide assistance, that many would then be barred from coming back to their country,” he said.
CNBC reported that tensions between native Quebecois and Muslim immigrants have been rising, noting that Islamic head coverings for women, or niqab, were an issue in the 2015 national Canadian election, with a majority in Quebec supporting a ban on the practice at citizenship ceremonies. In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in Quebec’s Saguenay region was reportedly splattered with pig blood. In Ontario in 2015, a mosque was torched the day after the Paris attack.
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