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Quebec Mosque Shooting Kills at Least 6, and 2 Suspects Are Arrested
Gunmen opened fire in a mosque in the city of Quebec on Sunday night, killing six people and wounding eight others in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a "terrorist attack on Muslims."
Étienne Doyon, a spokesman for the Quebec police, told reporters at the scene that the attack on the mosque, the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, had occurred around 8 p.m. At a news conference early Monday the police confirmed the six fatalities and said that two suspects had been arrested.
The attack shook Canada, a country where mass shootings are uncommon, and came as the country has become known as a beacon for refugees fleeing warfare and terrorism in Muslim-majority nations.
Mr. Trudeau assailed what he called "this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge."
"It is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence," he said in a statement early Monday. "Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear."
Christine Colombe, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Provincial Police, said the victims ranged in age from 35 to 70 and said that 39 people who were in the mosque were not hurt.
The police had not yet identified a motive in the shootings, saying the investigation was just beginning. Ms. Colombe said that one of the two suspects was arrested at the scene of the shooting, while another was apprehended nearby in d'Orleans.
The police said that some of those wounded in the shooting were seriously hurt.
On Twitter, Martin Coiteux, the provincial minister of public safety, said that "the police systems for dealing with terrorist acts have been activated" in the wake of the shooting. "Ensuring the safety of the population is our priority," he wrote.
Radio-Canada, the French-language service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, said the area surrounding the mosque had been sealed off by the police after the attack.
Last June, a pig's head was left at the door of the mosque in the middle of Ramadan. Practicing Muslims regard pork as unclean and do not eat it.
The president of the mosque, Mohamed Yangui, was interviewed on Ici RDI, a French Canadian broadcaster. He was not at the mosque during the shooting but said that people who were present had told him that one gunman was able to reload his weapon several times.
He said he had been told by witnesses that the gunmen had entered on the ground floor and had gone to the second floor where women pray, but he did not know whether any women were in the mosque at the time.
The attack came after Mr. Trudeau said that Canada stood ready to continue welcoming refugees from terrorism and war and as President Trump's executive order on immigration stranded people around the world and provoked condemnation that it was directed at Muslims.
In the wake of the Quebec shooting, the New York City police stepped up protection of mosques, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter.
About 765,000 people live in the city of Quebec, and 6,760 of them identified themselves as Muslims during the last national census.
Mr. Trudeau posted a message on Twitter on Saturday welcoming refugees to Canada and included a photograph of himself with a child under the hashtag #WelcomeToCanada. Since Mr. Trudeau took office in late 2015 the country has admitted nearly 40,000 refugees, many of them fleeing the war in Syria.
Canada's warm embrace of Syrian refugees has won the country accolades at home and abroad, but is not without its domestic opponents. A survey in Ontario last summer found that while there was widespread support for accepting the refugees, only a third of respondents had a positive impression of Islam, and more than half felt its mainstream doctrines promoted violence.
Anti-Muslim incidents have been on the rise in Canada, with several minor incidents reported in Quebec during the past year.
A Montreal mosque and a Sept-Îles Muslim community center were slightly damaged in separate arson attempts in December, and the head of the Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec received online death threats the month before.
The increasing tension led a member of Parliament, Iqra Khalid, to put forward a motion in the national House of Commons in December calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia and request a study on how the government could combat the trend. The motion will probably be voted on when the House returns to session this week.
In the wake of Sunday night's attack, the premier of the province of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, said that solidarity rallies were planned on Monday for people to express their concern about the shootings.
"We are with you. You are at home," he said, in words directed at the province's Muslim residents.
[Source: By Ian Austen and Craig S. Smith, The New York Times, Ottawa, 29Jan17]
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