Gunfire rocked the sleepy Quebec City suburb of St. Foy shortly before 8 p.m. ET tonight, as at least one shooter opened fire on worshippers gathered at a local mosque for evening prayers.
Police have confirmed that shots were fired, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries, and that they have two suspects in custody. Shortly after midnight ET police confirmed that six people were killed in the attack, and eight others were wounded.
In June of last year a pig’s head was left at the doorstep of the same mosque, with a note reading “bonne (sic) appetit.”
The attack comes two days after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending refugee admissions and barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
No information has been released to identify the shooters. Police have not made any comment on a possible motive, but are treating the shooting as terrorism according to La Presse.
The newspaper reports that police have activated the Structure de gestion policière contre le terrorisme, an anti-terrorism protocol for panquébécois coordination, and Montreal police have increased patrols at “sensitive locations.”
The incident occurs in the context of years of rising Islamophobia in the province and beyond. Quebec City has seen a surge in recruitment for far-right groups with an anti-Islamic message in recent years, including a local chapter of the Soldiers of Odin, who claim 400 members in Quebec.
Earlier this month, CBC reported on a shakeup within the Soldiers of Odin’s Quebec chapter. The group’s founding leader, who favoured softening the group’s anti-immigrant stance, was out.
The new acting president has vowed to return the Quebec branch of the Soldiers of Odin to its Finnish roots and ramp up patrols of the more Muslim areas of Quebec City.
The goal, she says, is not to intimidate Muslim immigrants but rather make them aware of Quebec values.
”We won't allow them to bring mayhem to our streets and the gang rapes that we're seeing in certain countries currently," she said. "That's all we want to do.”
According to the CBC, the Soldiers of Odin distinguish themselves from other far-right groups which are mainly active online by maintaining an active presence in communities. Nowhere more so than in Quebec City, where “they have, since February, organized patrols through various neighborhoods, sometimes as many as three or four times a week.”
Premier Philippe Couillard tweeted his solidarity with Muslim Quebecers in a series of tweets describing the attack as an act of “barbaric violence,” and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that his thoughts were with the victims and their families as “Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City.”
Within hours of the news breaking, a solidarity vigil was organized for Monday evening in Montreal.