QUEBEC CITY, Canada (AP) — Six people are dead and eight are injured in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers. Authorities reported two arrests in what Canada’s prime minister called an act of terrorism.
Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe said early Monday that some of the wounded were gravely injured. She said the dead were approximately 35 to 70 years of age. Thirty-nine people were unharmed. More than 50 were at the mosque at the time of the attack.
One suspect was arrested at the scene and another nearby in d’Orleans, Quebec. Police don’t believe there are other suspects. They did not release names of the two.
“The Muslim community was the target of this murderous attack,” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says at an early morning press conference Monday.
Couillard says there will be solidarity rallies across Quebec on Monday and says the province’s people will all be together to express horror. Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume appeared visibly shaken.
“No person should have to pay with their life, for their race, their color, their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs,” Labeaume says.
Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre President Mohamed Yangui says the shooting in the provincial capital happened in the men’s section of the mosque. He says he wasn’t at the center when the attack occurred, but he got some details from people on the scene. “We are sad for the families,” he said.
Ali Hamadi says he left the mosque a few minutes before the shooting. He says his friend and co-worker Abdelkrim Hassen, who worked in IT for the government, was killed. Hassen has three daughters and a wife. He got a neighbor to bring the wife to the hospital so she could hear the news.
She asked, “was he badly hurt?” Hamadi says he had to tell her that Hassen was dead.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Couillard both characterized the attack as a terrorist act, which came amid heightened tensions worldwide over U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on certain Muslim countries.
“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge,” Trudeau says in a statement. “It is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence. Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear.
“Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country,” he said. “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.”
Quebec City police spokesman Constable Pierre Poirier says the mosque had been evacuated and the situation was under control.
Trudeau had earlier reacted to Trump’s visa ban for people from some Muslim-majority countries by tweeting Saturday: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
Trudeau also posted a picture of himself greeting a Syrian child at Toronto’s airport in late 2015. Trudeau oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected.
The mayor of Gatineau, Quebec, near Canada’s capital of Ottawa, said there would be an increased police presence at mosques around his city following the attack.
Canada’s public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, says on Twitter Sunday he was deeply saddened by the loss of life. His office says no motive had been confirmed.