Quebec mosque attack: Terrorist a lone-wolf far-right extremist?

After a day of confusion after an attack on a Quebec City mosque killed six people and wounded at least five more, police have finally determined that one gunman was responsible for all the violence. Police captured Alexandre Bissonnette shortly after the terror attack and hauled him into court later in the evening:

Who is Alexandre Bissonnette? The Washington Post reports that he’s a far-right extremist, and also a “socially awkward” loner:

Canadian authorities on Monday charged a 27-year-old university student known for his far-right sympathies with six counts of first-degree murder in a mass shooting the day before at a local mosque.

Alexandre Bissonnette, described by neighbors and acquaintances as a socially awkward introvert who had recently adopted virulent political views, was also charged late Monday afternoon with five counts of attempted murder with a restricted firearm. The five surviving victims were still in the hospital, with two of them in critical condition, although hospital officials said their injuries were not life-threatening.

What about the second man initially arrested with Bissonnette? Mohamed Belkhadir was the witness who called 911, but panicked as police arrived:

The suspect was captured by police about 15 miles from the scene of the attack after he called 911 and offered to surrender. The police initially said they had also arrested a 29-year-old engineering student at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center. By Monday afternoon, they released him and called him a witness to the event.

It turned out the witness, Mohamed Belkhadir, had left the mosque at the end of prayers and was near the building when he heard shots. Returning inside, he called 911 and began helping a friend who had been shot. When he saw armed police arrive, he panicked and ran off and was quickly stopped. He said the police had treated him well.

These developments demonstrate the wisdom of withholding conclusions until all evidence has come in. People across the political spectrum began leaping to wildly different conclusions as each tidbit emerged from the chaos over the last 36 hours or so. That impulse comes from a very human attempt to fit events into how we see the world, but also in some cases in an attempt to fit our own political agendas into current events.

So far, the evidence suggests that Bissonnette might be more like a Dylann Roof than a Timothy McVeigh, but that still remains to be seen. Police will want to make sure that Bissonnette wasn’t part of a larger terror conspiracy, especially since this particular mosque had been the target of anti-Muslim vandalism over the past couple of years. The Post’s profile fits more in with the typical loner mass shooter, but that’s only based on what we know now. Clearly, though, opening fire on a defenseless group of worshipers is at the very least a terrorist act, regardless of the specific motive.

This will be a case worth following, but it’s better to follow it than get ahead of it.