But who are they — and what were their motives? Police in Quebec have announced the capture of two suspects after a shooting that left six dead and several others wounded at a mosque in Quebec City. The mosque has been the target of anti-Muslim vandalism in the past, several news sources note:
A shooting at a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers left six people dead and eight others wounded in an attack that Canada’s prime minister called an act of terrorism. Police arrested two suspects.
More than 50 people were at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre at the time of Sunday’s attack. Some of the wounded were gravely injured, Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe said early Monday. The dead ranged in age from age 35 to 70, she said. Thirty-nine people were unharmed.
One suspect was arrested at the scene and another nearby in d’Orleans, Quebec. Police don’t believe there are other suspects. They didn’t release the names of the two, and didn’t immediately speculate on a possible motive.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard both characterized the attack as a terrorist act, which came amid heightened tensions worldwide over President Donald Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim countries.
There has been a lot of speculation like that on social media, but very little in the way of hard facts. In fact, the initial reports had three gunmen involved, but police now believe that the two they have in custody are the only perpetrators in the attack.
World leaders immediately responded after the attack, some of whom also led with assumptions:
In France, President Francois Hollande condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “odious attack” in Quebec.
“It’s the spirit of peace and openness of the people of Quebec that the terrorists wanted to hit,” Hollande said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman condemned the “despicable” attack.
“If the killers intended to set people of different faiths against each other or to divide them, they must not and will not succeed in that,” Steffen Seibert said. “We stand in mourning beside the Muslim community in Quebec.”
The problem is that we don’t know the motive, which makes these statements presumptuous, at least. Until police identify the suspects and their motives, we don’t know if they wanted to attack “the spirit of peace and openness” or to divide people of different faiths. Those are certainly possibilities, but there are other possibilities too — personal vendettas, intra-faith disputes, and so on.
What we do know is that this is an atrocity, and those who committed it should be punished on that basis. Pray for the victims, and pray for our friends in Quebec that they may quickly determine responsibility and deliver justice.
According to Radio-Canada and LCN, the two suspects in Sunday’s terror attacks on a mosque in Quebec City are Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed Khadir.
One of the suspects were arrested at the scene, while a second called 911 himself and was arrested around 9 p.m., just over an hour after the first 911 calls came in at 7:55 p.m., police said Monday morning during a news conference involving the Sûreté du Québec, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Quebec City police and Montreal police.
They were not known to police and the investigation into a possible motive continues, said superintendent Martin Plante of the RCMP’s C Division.
At least one name suggests that the attack wasn’t entirely intended to divide people of different faiths, but even that is still a leap until we see some evidence of motive. It’s intriguing, though, that one of them called 911 to turn himself in.
Update: More confirmation on the identities, but so far no discussion of motive.
CBC News has confirmed the identity of the suspects in the #QuebecShooting are Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed Khadir.
— Louise Martin (@LouiseMartinCBC) January 30, 2017
Update: Quebec police now say that only Bissonnette was a suspect, and that Khadir was a witness and has been released. This is why it pays to wait for all the details to come out before jumping to conclusions.