Alexandre Bissonnette has been identified as one of two suspects accused of killing six people and wounding eight others in a “barbaric” massacre Sunday night at a Quebec City mosque, TVA News reports.
The 27-year-old and another man, Mohamed el Khadir, entered the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec and opened fire with rifles, shooting members of the mosque as they prayed, police and witnesses say.
Both men are in police custody, and were being questioned by police Monday morning. They are expected to face murder charges. Authorities have not confirmed the suspect’s names.
Police and politicians are calling it a terrorist attack, La Presse reports.
The victims range in age from 39 to 70, police said. Only one, Azzedine Soufiane, has been identified publicly so far. A friend told the Montreal Gazette that Soufiane was a father of three young children and was well known in the community.
“We’ve just lost someone who was very, very nice, a good person … such a loss, someone who was so welcoming, who helped everybody,” Ali Miladi told the newspaper.
“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui, told reporters. He was not at the mosque at the time of the shooting, but rushed to the scene after calls from members of the community.
The terror case is being led by the Quebec Provincial Police, along with Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec City Police.
Here’s what you need to know about the suspect and the attack:
1. Just 17 Minutes After the Shooting, Bissonnette Called 911 to Say He Felt Guilty About What He’d Done & Wanted to Turn Himself In
Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Quebec native, told the 911 dispatcher he was going to shoot himself. About 8:45 p.m., he told police he wanted to be arrested.
“He was armed and spoke to us about his acts,” Quebec City Police Inspector Denis Turcotte told the Montreal Gazette. “He seemed to want to co-operate. … The suspect said he was waiting for the police to arrive.”
Police have not yet released details about the suspect’s motive for the shooting. He was interrogated after being taken into custody and police are still investigating what led to the attack.
A source told Radio-Canada both suspects are students at Université Laval, a French-language, public college in Quebec City. There are about 28,500 undergraduate students and 8,500 graduate students attending the school.
“We are profoundly disturbed by these terrorist acts,” Denis Brière, Laval’s rector, told the Globe and Mail. “I am without words in the face of these cruel events. These are heinous and inhuman acts. Terrorist attacks that we condemn strongly at Laval University. These are acts that should not happen anywhere, ever.”
According to La Presse, the second suspect, Mohamed Khadir, is of Moroccan descent. It is not clear if he is originally from Morocco or if he was born in Canada.
The suspects were not known to police prior to the shooting and do not have a criminal record, authorities said.
Searches were being conducted Monday at locations believed to be connected to Bissonnette and Khadir.
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2. Bissonnette Was Taken Into Custody About 14 Miles From the Mosque on a Bridge Over the St. Lawrence River
After calling 911, the suspected shooter parked his car, a Mitsubishi, on the Island of Orleans bridge, and officers from the Tactical Intervention Group arrived and took him into custody, the newspaper reports.
A handgun and two rifles that looked like AK-47s were found in his car, according to La Presse.
The bridge remained closed early Monday morning, the newspaper said. Authorities feared the Mitsubishi may have been rigged with explosives.
The other suspect, Mohamed Khadir, was arrested close to the mosque, authorities said.
A search is still ongoing for a possible third suspect, though police do not believe there is a third man involved, at least not directly.
“The investigation has not ended,” Quebec City Police spokesman Étienne Doyon, told the Toronto Star. “We will be trying to verify if there is a third or fourth or any other person involved. We’re not ruling out that there may be other suspects.”
Six people were killed and eight were wounded when gunmen opened fire during prayers at Quebec City mosque in what Canadian officials are calling a terrorist attack.Click here to read more
3. The Gunmen Wore Masks & Shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ During the Shooting, a Witness Says
Witnesses told Reuters that two to three gunmen opened fire on worshippers inside the mosque Sunday night.
Along with the six killed and eight injured, at least 39 other people survived the attack, police said.
A witness told Radio-Canada the gunmen wore masks, the CBC reports.
“It seemed to me that they had a Quebecois accent. They started to fire, and (while) they shot they yelled, ‘Allahu akbar!’ The bullets hit people that were praying. People who were praying lost their lives. A bullet passed right over my head,” said the witness, who asked not to be named. “There were even kids. There was even a three-year-old who was with his father.”
The mosque’s president said there can be up to 100 in attendance on a Sunday night. According to La Presse, children would have been in the basement, while the men would be on the ground floor and women on the second floor.
One of the gunmen was armed with an “AK-47,” Le Soleil reports.
Hamid Nadji, who spoke to a friend who was inside the mosque, told the Montreal Gazette the scene was a “carnage.”
Nadji told the newspaper, “From what we heard over the phone, one person had a weapon discharged in his face because he had wanted to jump on the man to stop him. And the three others died because they wanted to catch the man.”
One of the gunmen left the mosque to reload and came back. He then ran out of bullets a second time, reloaded and returned for a third round of shooting, Nadji told the Gazette.
After a previous hate crime incident at the mosque, also called Grande Mosque de Québec, its leaders said they had several CCTV cameras on the building. It is not clear if the video shows the shooting or the suspects.
The mosque has about 5,000 members and is one of six in the Quebec City region, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Alexandre Bissonnette has been identified as one of two men accused of killing six people in an attack on a mosque in Quebec City. See photos of him here.Click here to read more