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'A father to everyone': Tributes paid to Quebec shooting victims

Six men died in the attack, which took place during evening prayers at a mosque.

THE VICTIMS OF a shooting at a mosque in Quebec have been named.

Six men were killed in the attack on Sunday night, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau characterised as a terrorist act. The victims had been saying evening prayers when the shooting happened.

download Alexandre Bissonnette Source: Facebook

Alexandre Bissonnette, a French Canadian university student, was charged with the killings yesterday. He was known for far-right, nationalist views and his support of the French right-wing party led by Marine Le Pen.

Local media has named the victims, with CBC News reporting a businessman, professor and fathers of young children are among the dead.

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 hospitalised, two were in critical condition, authorities have said. The dead ranged in age from 39 to 60.

v Khaled Belkacemi Source: Laval University INAF

CBC has the below information about the victims:

  • Azzeddine Soufiane (57) – a father-of-three, grocer, butcher and longtime Quebec City resident
  • Khaled Belkacemi (60) – a father and agri-food engineering professor at Laval University
  • Aboubaker Thabti (44) – a pharmacy worker with two young children
  • Mamadou Tanou Barry and Ibrahima Barry (42 and 39) – brothers from Guinea who also both had young children
  • Abdelkrim Hassane (41) – an Algerian with three young daughters

Amine Noui, a friend and customer, told CBC Soufiane was one of the first people he met when he moved to Quebec, saying: “He was very nice, social, well-liked by all his customers.”

Ali Ouldache, another local man, said Soufiane was “a father to everyone, a brother to everyone — very tolerant, very respectful”.

Belkacemi’s son Amir said his father was “a good man, an example of resilience, a man loved by all, a professor … a man who left his country to give his family a chance to live far away from horror”.

First-degree murder

Bissonnette was yesterday charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

The 27-year-old suspect, who has espoused support for Le Pen and US President Donald Trump on his Facebook page, was known to those who monitor extremist groups in Quebec, François Deschamps, an official with a refugee advocacy group, said.

“It’s with pain and anger that we learn the identity of terrorist Alexandre Bissonnette, unfortunately known to many activists in Quebec for taking nationalist, pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist positions at Laval University and on social media,” Deschamps wrote on the Facebook page of the group, Bienvenues aux Refugiés, or Welcome to Refugees.

An anthropology and political science major at Laval University in Quebec City, Bissonnette had also expressed support on his Facebook profile for Génération Nationale, a group whose manifesto includes the rejection of “multiculturalism”.

Authorities said Bissonnette was unknown to police.

The grandson of a decorated World War II veteran, Bissonnette appears in a Facebook photo as a boy dressed as an army cadet, a military leadership programme for Canadian youths. Cadets are not members of the Canadian Armed Forces and do not receive military training.

France Canada Mosque Shooting The Eiffel Tower's lights were switched off in memory of the victims of the attack in Quebec Source: Francois Mori/AP

Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard both characterised 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 into the US.

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 the victims were targeted simply because of their religion. Speaking directly to the more than one million Muslims who live in Canada, he said, “We are with you, 36 million hearts are breaking with yours.”

The prime minister later attended a vigil along with thousands of people 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. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was darkened in respect to the victims, as was the CN Tower in Toronto.

The mosque has been a target of hate crimes in the past, including last summer when a pig’s head was left on its doorstep during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Practicing Muslims do not eat pork.

Contains reporting from AP 

Read: Quebec suspect a 27-year-old far-right nationalist who recently ‘liked’ Facebook page of Trump

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Órla Ryan

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