QUEBEC CITY (AP) — Members of Quebec city's Muslim community walked over thick, crusted blood dried into the carpet of their mosque on Wednesday as they returned to the scene of last weekend's carnage where six men were shot to death.
Blood was everywhere: on the prayer carpet, the walls, tables and in footprints leading to the basement where people took refuge from the shooter.
Mosque vice president Mohamed Labidi said he wanted to open the center to the public so people could see what worshippers had to suffer.
Twenty-seven-year-old university student Alexandre Bissonnette has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the case. He was arrested Sunday night following the massacre in which 19 people were also wounded.
Bissonnette was a fan of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and U.S. President Donald Trump and acquaintances described him as someone who took extreme nationalist, pro-Le Pen positions at Laval University and on social media.
Six men, aged between 39 and 60, were killed when the gunan stormed the mosque and opened fire during evening prayers. Authorities have refused to specify what type of firearm was used in the mass shooting.
Labidi, standing in front of a thick gob of blood at the entrance to the carpeted prayer area, pointed down and said the remains belonged to his friend Azzeddine Soufiane, a grocer and butcher with three children who immigrated to Quebec from Morocco. He said Soufiane ran to the shooter and tried to struggle with him, only to be shot dead.
"He was a generous man," Labidi said. "Generous to the last moment of his life. He is our hero."
Since the shooting, Labidi had been soft-spoken, but his voice rose as he spoke about his friend and his struggle living as a foreigner in Quebec City.
"We went to university together. He got a PhD in geology — and he couldn't find a job in this city because his name was Azzeddine Soufiane."
He forged his own path by starting his grocery store, Labidi said.
"I didn't want to talk about it because it wasn't the time to do it ... but go to taxi stands and you'll see PhDs and people with master's degrees because we do not find jobs here," he said.
Ahmed El-Ghandouri wiped away tears as he spoke about knowing Soufiane for 35 years and helping him start his grocery store.
"This is my second home," he said of the mosque. "But we have to return here. We don't have the choice. We have to clean, put it back in order. And we welcome people to come and see what Islam is really about."
Mosque president Mohamed Yangui said the six bodies have been returned to their families.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said a funeral service will be held on Thursday afternoon for three of the six men. There will be prayers for the three other victims.