MONTREAL (AP) — The massacre at a Quebec City mosque left Canada in shock but it has also unified the country in solidarity with the Muslim community, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday at the funeral for three of the six men killed in the attack.
Trudeau addressed the thousands packed into Quebec's Maurice-Richard Arena in Arabic, saying, "As-Salaam-alaikum," which means "peace be unto you," drawing rounds of applause.
The Liberal Party leader stood before the caskets of Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi and Aboubaker Thabti, which were draped in flags of their homelands.
"It is with a heavy heart that we come together this afternoon to grieve the loss of these innocent lives. But as a community and as a country, together we will rise from this darkness stronger and more unified than ever before. That is who we are," Trudeau told the solemn crowd.
Thabti, 44, was a pharmacist of Tunisian origin who had three children. Belkacemi, a 60-year-old father of two, was from Algeria and was a professor at Universite Laval. Hassane, a 41-year-old also from Algeria, was a father of three and worked in information technology for the Quebec provincial government.
Trudeau called them devoted fathers who worked hard to ensure their families had a bright future — a dream, he said, that Canadians have known and shared for generations.
Those men, along with three others, were killed when a gunman entered the mosque and opened fire during evening prayers. Nineteen more were wounded.
University student Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, has been charged with murder and attempted murder. He was arrested Sunday night following the attack. Bissonnette was a fan of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and U.S. President Donald Trump, and acquaintances said he took extreme nationalist, pro-Le Pen positions at Laval University and on social media.
Quebec Mayor Denis Coderre, who was among the dignitaries at the funeral, said the attack was a blow to everyone.
"I think that we are all suffering from" the shooting, he said. "Not just the Muslim community, it's not just the people of Quebec. Everyone is suffering from this."
Philippe Couillard, premier of Quebec province, noted all six dead were fathers like him. "They were sons and brothers and uncles, like me, like us. Friends, co-workers, like us. They were us. They were loved, appreciated, respected, and they always will be. We won't forget them."
"I want to tell Muslim Quebecers: You're at home here. We are all Quebecers," Couillard said to thunderous applause and cheers.
A funeral is expected in Quebec City on Friday for the three other victims: Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Ibrahima Barry, 39; and Azzedine Soufiane, 57.