The shooting, Canada’s first terror attack, left six men dead at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center. They were gunned down while praying.
Twenty others were wounded; 8 seriously and 12 with less serious injuries, police reported.
The attack came amid nationwide protests over President Trump’s immigration ban against seven Muslim-majority countries.
In an effort to portray the massacre as something unrelated to Trump, right wing media sites initially claimed Moroccan-Canadian citizen Mohamed el Khadir was responsible for the shooting.
el Khadir was initially taken into custody for questioning. That was enough for propaganda sites to proclaim him the shooter.
Update: Fox News has apologized for identifying Mohamed Belkhadir as a suspect in the shooting. Belkhadir, a Canadian citizen and native of Morocco, had been praying in the mosque and called police when he heard shots. The Fox News tweet’s emphasis on Belkhadir’s roots in Morocco, a Muslim-majority country, plays into U.S. President Donald Trump’s false rhetoric that people from largely Muslim nations are terror-prone, critics said. Kate Purchase, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s director of communications, asked Fox News for the correction. “These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities,” Purchase said.
In an effort to frame him, one site claimed, citing an anonymous source that the gunman yell “Allahu akbar!” while firing randomly into a crowd of about 65 people attending prayer service.
The same “eyewitness” also claimed there were two shooters wearing masks, but police say Bissonnette acted alone.
The implication was the attack was sparked by internecine feuding between Muslim sects.
The site then blamed by implication Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s harsh criticism of Trump‘s executive order banning Muslims from entering the United States.
The spin, however, proved to be embarrassingly wrong.
Police quickly determined el Khadir was not involved. They now consider him a witness to the attack, according to more reliable media reports.
The 27-year-old student later phoned police from his car and surrendered, according to Le Soleil and other Canadian media outlets.
He was found with two rifles and an AK-47 assault rifle in his car. No one is else is wanted in connection with the attack, according to police.
Bissonnette was charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder, police. More charges are likely involving Canada’s anti-terror act, police said yesterday (Jan. 30).
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent Martin Plante said the investigation is continuing.
Facts about Bissonnette’s background and mindset began emerging yesterday. Classmates described him as a “pro-Trump loner” who seemed out of place at Laval University, one of Canada’s largest schools.
Bissonnette grew up at his family home in an upscale suburb of Quebec City, known as Cap Rouge. Neighbors said they were shocked to learn he was the alleged shooter. They called him a “typical boy nextdoor.”
Students were equally shocked by the incident. One student told London’s Daily Mail newspaper that Bissonnette was timid and never did anything that suggested he was prone to violence.
His Facebook page, since deleted, gave a different impression. He supported far-right ideologies like those promoted by White House Counsel Steve Bannon, the former director of hard right-leaning Breitbart News.
He also expressed support for Trump and France’s Le Pen, who heads the right wing National Front party. Like Trump, she opposes Muslim immigration.
Also singled out on his page with “likes” were Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, media pundits with strong anti-Muslim views.
François Deschamps, an official with a Canadian refugee advocacy group told The Associated Press Bissonnette is “known” to activists who monitor Quebec extremist groups.
“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,” Deschamps wrote on a Facebook page devoted to welcoming refugees.
Canada’s popular prime minister yesterday addressed Parliament and called the shooting a “terrorist attack.”
‘Last night’s horrible crime against the Muslim community was an act of terror committed against Canada and against all Canadians,” he said.
“We will grieve with you. We will defend you. We will love you. And we will stand with you,” he added.
Mosque president Mohamed Yangui called the attack “barbaric.”
This is a breaking news story. For the latest updates follow IM on Twitter.