Editor’s Note: Exposition and analysis on original version of this post has been removed, as it was time sensitive and I am unsure what ended up happening with this whole situation.
For anyone who has not yet heard, a white 27 year old Canadian has attacked a Mosque in Quebec.
Alexandre Bissonnette has been accused of killing six people and wounding eight others in a “barbaric” massacre Sunday night at a Quebec City mosque, TVA News reports.
The 27-year-old entered the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec and opened fire with a rifle, shooting members of the mosque as they prayed, police and witnesses say.
He is in police custody and was being questioned Monday morning. He has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder, the Toronto Star reports.
Friends and those who knew him online said he had extreme political beliefs, but was not known to be violent. Eric Debroise said he called police after the shooting and told them Bissonnette is “very right and (an) ultra nationalist white supremacist,” the French-language newspaper Le Journal de Quebec reports. “He really liked Trump and had a permanent discontent with the left.”
Debroise said Bissonnette had cut ties with many friends recently, the newspaper reports. Bissonnette’s family told the newspaper they believe he fell under the influence of someone.
A second man, Mohamed el Khadir, a Moroccan immigrant also called Mohamed Belkhadir, was previously identified by authorities as a suspect. He was taken into custody near the mosque and questioned, but Quebec Provincial Police said in a tweet Monday afternoon that he is no longer considered to be a suspect. He is now being called a witness.
Police and politicians are calling the shooting a terrorist attack, La Presse reports.
The victims range in age from 39 to 70, police said. They area ll men. Five of the victims — Azzedine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hasssen, Boubaker Thabti and Ahmed Youness — have been identified.
A friend told the Montreal Gazette that Soufiane was a father of three young children and was well known in the community.
“We’ve just lost someone who was very, very nice, a good person … such a loss, someone who was so welcoming, who helped everybody,” Ali Miladi told the newspaper.
Thabti was a father of two. Belkacemi was an agricultural professor at Universite Laval, the same school where Bissonnette has been a student. Hassen worked in information technology and Youness was a student at Laval.
“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui, told reporters. He was not at the mosque at the time of the shooting, but rushed to the scene after calls from members of the community.
Confusion over the number of shooters, based on witness statements and the fact two men were taken into police custody, along with speculation about the motive’s behind the shooting, spread quickly on social media in the hours after the attack. Adding to the disorder were hoaxes, including a viral tweet from a fake Reuters news account that named two “white supremacists” as the attackers, and another hoax, started at Donald Trump forums on Reddit, that claimed the gunmen were recent refugees from Syria.
Bissonnette Has Right-Wing, Pro-Israel, Pro-Trump & Anti-Immigration Beliefs, a Former Classmate Says
Little was known about Alexandre Bissonnette as of Monday morning, as police were still working to determine what led to the shooting. But details from those who knew him and information from his social media pages began to be uncovered by the afternoon.
According to his Facebook page, Bissonnette is from Cap-Rouge, Quebec, about 15 minutes from the mosque. He recently moved to an apartment in Quebec City near the mosque, a neighbor told the CBC. But he was seen often at his parent’s home, she said.
Bissonnette has a twin brother, a high school classmate told Le Journal de Quebec.
“Apart from his twin brother, I did not see him with other people,” said Mikael Labrecque Berger, in French. He said Bissonnette was an “unpopular nerd,” and was not always taken seriously by classmates.
“He replied to insults, but never with physical violence,” Labrecque Berger said, adding that he and his twin brother didn’t integrate with other students. They were usually only seen together, he said.
The former classmate, who had only seen him once since high school, said he didn’t know about any politics or beliefs that could have sparked the shooting.
But another former classmate, Jean-Michel Allard-Prus, who studied politics with him, at Université Laval and has kept in touch with him, told Le Journal de Quebec that Bissonnette, “has right-wing political ideas, pro-Israel, anti-immigration. I had many debates with him about Trump. He was obviously pro-Trump.”
And a third university classmate, Vincent Boissoneault, who grew up with Bissonnette, was friends with him on Facebook, told the Globe and Mail, “I can tell you he was certainly no Muslim convert. I wrote him off as a xenophobe. I didn’t even think of him as totally racist, but he was enthralled by a borderline racist nationalist movement.”
Acquaintances said he became interested in the far right movement when Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front in France, spoke in Quebec City in March 2016, the Globe and Mail reports. He began speaking out about politics on Facebook and became estranged from some friends, according to the newspaper.
Bissonnette likes the Facebook pages of U.S. President Donald Trump and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, but he does not express support for them elsewhere on his page. Other likes include the Israel Defense Forces, United With Israel and Parti Québécois of Université Laval.
He also likes U.S. Senator John McCain, a moderate Republican who has opposed Trump on some issues, President George W. Bush, the Canadian New Democratic Party and late Canadian politician Jack Layton, who was a leader of the left-wing NDP, so the likes do not shed much light on Bissonnette’s beliefs.
Bissonnette had no criminal record, but did have infractions in recent years for not wearing a seatbelt, speeding and illegal parking.
He was known to be a hunter and gun owner, Le Journal de Quebec reports.