A father and businessman known for welcoming new people to Quebec is the first victim identified in the mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque.
Azzedine Soufiane died during evening prayers in the mass shooting that injured at least eight others. Authorities are calling it a terrorist attack, although the motive is not yet clear.
A 27-year-old suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, is accused of killing six people and wounding eight others during evening prayers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec.
A second man originally arrested and identified as a suspect by Canadian news media was only a witness, according to police and Canadian news media reports that reflected the chaos from the scene. Originally it was reported that there might be as many as three shooters, but it now appears that Bissonnette, a Quebec native, might allegedly have been a lone gunman.
The victims range in age from their 30s to 70.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Soufiane Was a Father of Three & Respected Community Figure
According to the Montreal Gazette, Soufiane, the first identified victim, was a father of three children.
Soufiane “was a well-known figure in the community,” the newspaper reported.
“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, who knew Soufiane, told the Gazette.
2. The Victim Owned a Meat Shop in Quebec
The Montreal Gazette reported that Soufiane had a “meat shop in the Ste-Foy neighbourhood” of Quebec City.
A GoFundMe site has been established to help the families of the Quebec mosque victims. It says that, in addition to Soufiane, a father of five was killed.
“A family of 5 young children, who had lost their mother recently, now lost their father as well!” the site reports, without providing additional details.
All of the victims were men, according to CNN.
3. Soufiane Was Shot While Attending Evening Prayers at the Mosque
The gunman (see Bissionnete above) burst into the mosque during evening prayers while carrying an AK-47, according to Fox News.
The motive is still not clear, but French authorities are calling the mass shooting a terrorist attack. Soufiane was one of about 50 people who were attending the prayer service when the shooting erupted.
Lemonde reported that, according to eyewitnesses, the suspect reloaded and later called 911 to turn himself in.
4. Soufiane Was Known to ‘Welcome New Arrivals’ to Quebec & the Mosque
According to CBC, Soufiane was known to welcome new arrivals to Quebec and the Mosque community.
Two Algerian citizens were among the victims, according to Algerie Press Service. “We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist attack perpetrated last night against the faithful gathered to fulfill the duty of prayer in a mosque in Quebec City,” said Benali Cherif, a spokesman for the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the press service.
5. Confusion Erupted Over the Number of Suspects & Their Origins
Canadian, and then U.S. media, reported, through eyewitnesses, that there were two or maybe three gunmen, and that one of them shouted “Allahu Akbar” while firing.
An eyewitness told Radio Canada, the suspect “seemed to have a good Quebecois accent. One began to shoot. As soon as he opened fire, he shouted: ‘Allahu Akbar!’…The bullets hit people who were praying. People who prayed lost their lives. We threw ourselves on the ground directly. Several people praying burst their prayer and threw themselves on the ground.”
However, it now appears that authorities believe Bissonnette may have acted alone, although the motive is not yet clear. He is a student at Université Laval, a French-language, public college in Quebec City, according to Radio Canada.