Six people were killed after gunmen opened fire in a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers, the mosque’s president told reporters on Sunday.
A witness told Reuters that up to three gunmen fired on about 40 people inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre.
“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui.
Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 30, 2017
Quebec police on the scene said there had been fatalities and that two people had been arrested.
“There are many victims ... there are deaths,” a Quebec police spokesman told reporters.
A witness said a heavily armed police tactical squad was seen entering the mosque. Police spokesman Etienne Doyon declined to say whether there was still a gunman inside the mosque.
Police later tweeted: “The situation is under control.”
Yangui, who was not inside the mosque when the shooting occurred, said he got frantic calls from people at evening prayers. He did not know how many were injured, saying they had been taken to different hospitals across Quebec City.
The shootings came hours after Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed immigrants to Canada, striking a sharp contrast with Trump’s sweeping executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim country.
Justin Trudeau condemned Quebec City shooting as a “terrorist attack” after gunmen opened fire at a mosque there, killing at least five.
“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge,” Trudeau said. “Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, city and country.”
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
Like France, Quebec has struggled at times to reconcile its secular identity with a rising Muslim population, many of them North African emigrants.
In June 2016, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the cultural centre.
“We are not safe here,” said Mohammed Oudghiri, who normally attends prayers at the mosque but not on Sunday.
Oudghiri said he had lived in Quebec for 42 years but was now “very worried” and thinking of moving back to Morocco.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a tweet that he was “profoundly saddened by the loss of life and wounded.”
Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. The face-covering, or niqab, became a big issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election, especially in Quebec, where the vast majority of the population supported a ban on it at citizenship ceremonies.
In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of the province was splattered with what was believed to be pig blood.
In the neighbouring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015, a day after an attack by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris.
Zebida Bendjeddou, who left the mosque earlier on Sunday evening, said the centre had received threats.
“In June, they’d put a pig’s head in front of the mosque. But we thought: ‘Oh, they’re isolated events.’ We didn’t take it seriously. But tonight, those isolated events, they take on a different scope,” she said.
Bendjeddou said she had not yet confirmed the names of those killed, but added: “They’re people we know, for sure. People we knew since they were little kids.”
Trump suspended the arrival of refugees to the United States for at least 120 days, with those from Syria barred indefinitely. He also blocked entry of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for the next three months.
According to the latest Canadian census, from 2011, one out of five people in the country are foreign-born.
Canada has welcomed more than 39,670 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and the beginning of this January, according to government figures.