Mosque shooting suspect known for far right views - WNEM TV 5

Mosque shooting suspect known for far right views

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Quebec City, Canada (AP) -

The French Canadian university student charged with killing six Muslim men during evening prayers at a mosque was known for far-right, nationalist views and his support of the French rightist party led by Marine Le Pen. Alexandre Bissonnette was charged Monday with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder over the shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque that Canada's prime minister called an act of terrorism against Muslims. Bissonnette made a brief court appearance and did not enter a plea in the attack staged during evening prayers Sunday. Wearing a white prisoner jump suit, his hands and feet shackled, he stared down at the floor and fidgeted, but did not speak.

More than 50 people were at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre when the shooting began, and witnesses described a scene of chaos as worshippers scrambled to find friends and loved ones. In addition to the six dead, 19 people were wounded - all men. Of the five victims who remained hospitalized, two were in critical condition, authorities said. The dead ranged in age from 39 to 60.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard both characterized the attack as a terrorist act, which came amid strong criticism around the world over Trump's temporary travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries.

Canada is generally welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but the French-speaking province of Quebec has had a long-simmering debate about race and religious accommodation. The previous separatist government of the province called for a ban on ostentatious religious symbols, such as the hijab, in public institutions.

Trudeau said in Parliament that the victims were targeted simply because of their religion. Speaking directly to the more than 1 million Muslims who live in Canada, he said, "We are with you."

"Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours," Trudeau said.

The prime minister later attended a vigil along with thousands of people bundled in winter clothes in front of Notre-Dame-de-Foy Church, just around the corner from the mosque that was attacked. It was one of many vigils in Canada, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris was darkened in respect to the victims as was the CN Tower in Toronto.

The suspect was arrested in his car on a bridge near d'Orleans, after he called 911 to say he wanted to cooperate with police. Authorities, who initially named two suspects, said the other man taken into custody was a witness to the attack and was released. Officials said they did not believe there were others involved but were investigating.

Police did not give a motive for the attack.

Trump called Trudeau to express condolences to the Canadian people and to offer any assistance that might be needed.

The White House pointed to the attack as an example of why Trump's policies are needed. "We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. It's a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be pro-active, rather than reactive when it comes to our nation's safety and security," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved. 

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