Police seek motive after Quebec mosque attack kills six; vigils planned

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 30, 2017 1:06 AM

By Allison Lampert

QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) - Police searched for a motive on Monday after two gunmen opened fire on worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, killing six and wounding eight, during Sunday night prayers as vigils were planned across Canada.

Police said two suspects were under arrest, but they gave no details about them or what prompted the shootings that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "a terrorist attack on Muslims."

Police have not identified the suspects or suggested a motive for the attack, and were unable to confirm media reports that the victims were all men and the suspects were students at Université Laval.

Five people were critically injured and remained in intensive care, three of them in life-threatening condition, a spokeswoman for the Quebec City University Hospital said on Monday.

She said another 12 people arrived at the hospital with minor injuries Sunday night.

A father of four, the owner of a halal butcher near the mosque, is 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 was running late for the evening prayers at the mosque on Sunday, 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."

Université Laval is the oldest French-language university in North America, with 42,500 students.

An outpouring of support for the mosque, formally called Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, was published on social media and vigils are planned for Montreal and Quebec City, the provincial capital, later on Monday. 

Condolences poured out from around the world for the incident. Pope Francis offered his condolences to Cardinal Gerald Cyprien LaCroix, Archbishop of Quebec, who was visiting Rome on Monday. Francis said he was praying for the victims of the attack.

"The pope underlined how important it is in these moments that everyone remains united in prayer, Christians and Muslims," the Vatican said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Dougherty in Quebec City and Alastair Sharp and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Writing by Andrea Hopkins and Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)