*NB: an updated version of this story is available here.*
Six people have been killed and eight injured in a shooting at a mosque and cultural centre in Quebec City.
The Canadian prime minister has called it a “terrorist attack on Muslims”.
As dozens of people, reportedly mostly men, attended evening prayers, two masked gunmen are said to have burst into the mosque just before 8pm on Sunday night, opening fire. Some women and children were also reportedly present.
Police were quickly on the scene and reports say two suspects were arrested after a chase. No details have been given about them or what prompted the attack.
The shooting happened in the Sainte-Foy district, about 10 kilometres to the west of Quebec City’s historic centre.
“Six people are confirmed dead – they range in age from 35 to about 70,” Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe told reporters. She added that nearly 40 people in the mosque had been unharmed.
CBC News (@CBCNews) January 30, 2017
At a news conference the authorities in the province sent out a message of solidarity.
“I would like to say a few words, to our Quebec compatriots of Muslim faith: we are with you, you are at home, you are welcomed at home, we are all from Quebec. Together we must continue to build an open, welcoming and peaceful society,” said the Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard.
There was a similar message from the prime minister, Justin Trudeau. “We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” he said in a statement. “Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country.”
Please read my statement on tonight’s terrorist attack in Quebec City: https://t.co/58NRcOAUmB— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 30, 2017
The mosque’s president Mohamed Yangui was not inside the building when the shooting happened, but said he received frantic calls from worshippers. “Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” he said.
The authorities in Quebec have been accused of not doing enough to counter hate crime following a series of incidents. Last year a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the same centre.
In neighbouring Ontario the day after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, a mosque was set on fire.
Security has been stepped up at places of worship in Quebec City and across the province following the latest attack.
The shooting came on the weekend Justin Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees – as across the border US President Trump suspended the US refugee programme and temporarily banned citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.