Canadian authorities are holding one under suspicion of carrying out the attack on the Quebec City mosque that Dan wrote about last night: Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27 year old resident of the Quebec City suburb of Cap-Rouge, and apparently of French-Canadian origin according to reports from the CBC and the Toronto Globe and Mail. A second person detained — apparently Mohamed El Khadir — is considered a witness, not a suspect in the attack, according to the BBC.
According to the CBC, the arrest came after security services engaged in a hot pursuit of the suspect’s SUV. He was reportedly armed with a firearm of some kind at the time of arrest.
The attack was allegedly carried out with an AK-47, according to the British Telegraph.
The CBC is reporting that six people are now dead from the attack, the victims ranging in age from 35 to 70. Canadian officials have described this as an act of “terror”, and the investigation is currently being led by Quebec’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.
“It seemed to me that they had a Québécois 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.”
Another witness told the Globe and Mail that he thought the attacker was “someone who mastered weapons because it was calm,” the man said. “He killed and he killed. It was really horrible.” The unnamed witness was tragically eloquent as he described his own feelings — and harsh reminder that in today’s world, there is no place for “condition white“:
He said he lay on his stomach near the front of the mosque as the man emptied his weapon. Then, he said, the gunman just stopped and left.
“I’m shocked,” he said. “We thought that here, we were in a safe city, a safe country. But unfortunately that’s not the case.”
Facts are still sparse at the moment, and one can still honestly say that it is unclear what the motive may have been, although that won’t stop media speculation. National origin does not equate to membership in a religion, as Somalian-born atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali could tell you, and one could easily imagine an anti-Muslim terrorist shouting “God is great” as a way of taunting his victims. (And yes, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as Freud once said.)
Canadian P.M. Justin Trudeau and other local politicians initially appeared to be framing this as “a terrorist attack on Muslims,” which regardless of motive, appears to be correct. One local newspaper seemed to be stressing the fact that one of the suspects had a “a Québec name”. Facts and preferred narrative will fight with each other for attention for a while, until we have nothing left but facts and apathy.
Canada had been in the news recently in conjunction with President Donald Trump’s imposition of restrictions on immigration from a number of countries in the Middle-East and Africa to the United States. Prime Minister Trudeau had announced that Canada would welcome refugees from affected countries impacted by Mr. Trump’s executive order. It will be interesting to see how this attack will impact the conversation on the subject, as well as America’s and Canada’s policies. Mr. Trump’s order did not affect immigration from Morocco; Mr. Trudeau’s policy on refugees from Syria has hitherto been to welcome women, children, and families, but not individual men.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article cited a report from Fox News stating that one of the assailants arrested was of Moroccan origin; this is incorrect. The only suspect being held now is French-Canadian Alexandre Bissonnette.