Two gunmen have opened fire inside a mosque in Sainte-Foy in Quebec City, killing at least 6 people and injuring 18 others, officials and witnesses say. The shooting is being treated as a suspected act of terrorism.
The attack happened at around 8 p.m. local time on Sunday when officers were called to reports of shots being fired at the Islamic Cultural Center in Sainte-Foy, where more than 50 people were gathered for evening prayers.
A large number of police officers, some of them heavily-armed, responded to the scene. Two suspects were taken into custody a short time later, one of them at or near the mosque and the second on Orleans Island.
A total of 6 people were killed in the attack, a Quebec police spokesman confirmed on early Monday morning. Hospital network CHU de Québec added that 18 additional victims were being treated at its facilities, including 6 people who are in critical condition. The others suffered minor injuries.
The identities of the two suspects were not immediately released and police provided no information about a possible motive, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the shooting as a “terrorist attack” on Muslims.
“It was with tremendous shock, sadness and anger that I heard of this evening’s tragic and fatal shooting,” Trudeau said 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.”
Witnesses said two masked individuals had entered the busy mosque and opened fire. “The bullets hit people that were praying. People who were praying lost their lives,” one witness told CBC News, adding that the shooters seemed to have a local accent and were shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also condemned the shooting. “Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence. Our solidarity is with the relatives of those killed, the injured and their families. Let us unite against violence. Solidarity with Quebecers of Muslim faith,” he said.
Last summer, a pig’s head was left outside the mosque where Sunday’s shooting took place. Photos from that incident showed that the pig’s head was wrapped in transparent plastic tied with blue and white ribbons, to which a note was attached saying “Bonne Appetit”.
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