However, it’s since emerged that the accused gunman has right-wing political beliefs.
Friends and those who knew suspect Alexandre Bissonnette online said he had extreme political beliefs, but he was not known to be violent. Eric Debroise said he called police after the shooting and told them Bissonnette is “very right and (an) ultra nationalist white supremacist,” the French-language newspaper Le Journal de Quebec reports. “He really liked Trump and had a permanent discontent with the left.”
La Presse is reporting that police are considering the mass shooting a terrorist attack. Quebec’s premier, Philippe Couillard called it a “terrorist” act on Twitter.
TV Nouvelles reported, “According to information obtained by TVA News, the first suspect would be a 27-year-old man with a strong Quebec accent.”
The Allahu Akbar report always seemed, on the face of it, confusing, since the target was a mosque. The mosque has also been the subject of hate crimes in the past; for example, a pig’s head was left at the mosque in June. The motive has not yet been released by authorities, Reuters is reporting. Some media reports said there was possibly a third suspect. However, as the dust cleared and the chaos subsided, police said they believe that the gunman acted alone.
According to CBC, an anonymous witness told Radio-Canada, a French language service, that two masked suspects entered the mosque. The witness told the radio station, according to CBC:
It seemed to me that they had a Quebecois accent. They started to fire, and as 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.
It’s not clear whether or why that witness account was wrong.
The witness said children were present. Forty people were praying at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre when the shooting unfolded, according to The New York Times. The Huffington Post also reported the Allahu Akbar account, although news reports on it appear to all originate from the Radio Canada witness. Eight were injured.
Another witness said in Arabic at the scene, “This is the result of Trump,” reported the Huffington Post. The mass shooting came as, across the border in the United States, protests broke out at major airports over the American president’s immigration ban, which affects seven Muslim majority countries. Donald Trump has said he instituted the temporary ban to prevent terrorist attacks from radical Islamic terrorists, such as ISIS. Opponents have accused the U.S. president of discriminating against Muslims.
There was a lot of misinformation stemming from the mass shooting. Fake news sites have falsely identified two white supremacists as the suspects, and reports that police scanner traffic named two suspects who were Syrian refugees are unverified and seem contradicted by the Radio Canada witness, who said the suspects spoke with Quebec accents. Read more about the false accounts on the suspects here.
Reuters quoted the Mosque president as saying that five people had died in the shooting and others were injured. The number deceased later rose to six.
The Huffington Post reported that Islamophobia has risen in Quebec, “the face-covering, or niqab, became a big issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election, especially in Quebec, where the vast majority of the population supported a ban on it at citizenship ceremonies.” The newspaper reported that the suspects had a Quebecois accent.
This story will be updated when more is known about the motive for the attack.
Read more about the mosque shooting here:
See Facebook Live video from the scene here: