In Brief

Alexandre Bissonnette: Who is the man charged in Canada mosque shooting?

Political science student hands himself to police half an hour after attack in Quebec City

A 27-year-old student has been charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder in connection with Sunday's gun attack on a mosque in Quebec City.

Alexandre Bissonnette, the only suspect in the killings, made a brief appearance in court on Monday as the charges against him were read.

Initial media reports claimed at least two gunmen carried out the assault, but police later clarified that a man arrested at the scene, Mohamed Belkhadir, was a witness rather than a suspect.

Six men aged between 35 and 65 were killed in Sunday's attack and another 18 people injured, five of them seriously.

Witnesses say a man entered the mosque and opened fire with a weapon described as similar to an AK-47. Dozens of worshippers had lingered to chat after the evening prayer service.

"Provincial police are treating the attack as a terrorist act," CBC reports.

Bissonnette is reported to have called police himself shortly after the massacre to tell them his location.

The political science student, studying at Quebec City's Laval University, had no previous criminal record. A neighbour described him as "solitary", while former school friends told Radio Canada he was an introvert who enjoyed playing chess.

"An archived screenshot of his Facebook page showed he 'liked' a wide range of pages, including those of US President Donald Trump, far-right French politician Marine Le Pen and atheist scientist Richard Dawkins," the Toronto Star reports.

Francois Deschamps, who runs a Facebook group welcoming refugees to Quebec, told La Presse that when he saw Bissonnette's photo in the news, he recognised him as an online "troll" who he claimed had targeted foreigners and feminists in posts.

Six dead in Canada mosque shooting

30 January

Six people were killed and several others wounded when gunmen opened fire on worshippers inside a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, during evening prayers yesterday.

Police have arrested two suspects and a security cordon remains in place around the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, where at least 50 men, women and children were believed to have gathered for evening prayers.

Mohamed Yangui, the centre's president, said the shooting happened in the men's section of the mosque. 

A witness told CBC's French language service Radio-Canada: "A bullet passed right over my head. There were even kids. There was even a three-year-old who was with his father."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned what he called a "terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge", while Philippe Couillard, the premier of Quebec, said the city "categorically rejects this barbaric violence".

He added: "Our solidarity is with the victims, the injured and their families. We unite against violence. Solidarity with Muslim Quebecers."

The motive for the attack is still being investigated, says Sky News.

Yesterday's shooting follows a number of incidents in mosques in Canada. Last June, a pig's head was left at the same mosque while in 2012, a mosque in Quebec's Saguenay region was splattered with pig's blood and in 2015, a mosque was set on fire in the neighbouring province of Ontario, a day after the Bataclan theatre attack in Paris.

"Quebec has struggled at times to reconcile its secular identity with a rising Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants," says CNBC. However, it adds that "mass shootings are rare in Canada, which has stricter gun laws than the United States, and news of the shooting sent a shockwave through mosques and community centres throughout the mostly French-language province".

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