- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2017

Canadian authorities on Monday charged a lone French Canadian in connection with a shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque that left six men dead — just days after President Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim countries heightened tensions worldwide over the acceptance of Muslims.

Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old who Canadian outlets report was known for voicing extreme right-wing and nationalist views, was charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Authorities said Mr. Bissonnette acted alone when he brought a gun into the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec during Sunday evening prayers and opened fire. Police initially reported taking a second man into custody but later said the man was a witness to the crime and not a suspect.

While police have not said what they believe motivated the attack, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard characterized the attack as an act or terrorism.

“Make no mistake — this was a terrorist attack,” Mr. Trudeau said Monday. “It was an attack on our most intrinsic and cherished values as Canadians — values of openness, diversity and freedom of religion.”

An anthropology and political science major at Laval University in Quebec City, Mr. Bissonnette was known to espouse support for the French far-right party of Marine Le Pen and was known to groups in Quebec that monitor extremist groups, Canadian media reported.

“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 at Laval University and on social media,” Francois Deschamps, an official with a refugee advocacy group, Bienvenues aux Refugies, wrote on the group’s Facebook page Monday.

More than 50 people were inside the mosque when the shooting started. It’s unknown why the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec was targeted, but the mosque has been a target of hate crimes in the past, including over the summer when a pig’s head was left on its doorstep during Ramadan. Practicing Muslims do not eat pork.

The victims killed in the attack were identified by the Quebec coroner’s office as Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; Ibrahima Barry, 39.

“We were attacked because we are Muslim. Shot at point blank range because we are Muslims. Dead because we are Muslim,” read a statement issued Monday by the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec. “A scene of unspeakable brutality took place in front of dozens of Quebec citizens, including children.”

Meanwhile, tensions flared in the United States and abroad over a travel ban signed by Mr. Trump that will prevent citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from coming to the United States for 90 days. Mr. Trump has said the order will help protect the United States against attacks by terrorists by securing the border. But critics, who were quick to challenge the travel ban in court in order to secure entry into the U.S. for individuals who were in transit to the country when the order took effect, say it is rooted in religious discrimination.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Mr. Trump condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms.” While declining to speculate on the motive, and before Mr. Bissonnette was identified as the suspected gunman, Mr. Spicer said the shooting was “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.”

The Canadian prime minister had taken a different stance on Mr. Trump’s executive order, reacting to its signing Friday by saying that refugees from the seven targeted countries would be welcome in Canada.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” he wrote on Twitter.

On Monday, Mr. Trudeau’s office said the U.S. president had “expressed his condolences to the prime minister and people of Canada following the tragic shooting.”

In New York City, police officials announced they were stepping up patrols around mosques and other houses of worship as a result of the attack.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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