Five people were killed after gunmen opened fire in a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers, the mosque’s president told reporters on Sunday.
Earlier, a witness told Reuters that up to three gunmen fired on about 40 people inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center. Police put up a security perimeter around the mosque and declined to comment to reporters about the incident.
“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui.
After a period of time, eyewitnesses saw heavily armed tactical police entering the mosque but police spokesman Etienne Doyon declined to say whether there was a gunman inside the mosque. However, Doyon did say that two people have been arrested.
A Quebec police spokesman confirmed that there were people killed, but did not say how many.
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) 30 января 2017 г.
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.
Incidents of Islamophobia increased in Quebec in recent years amid a political debate over banning the niqab, or Muslim face covering. In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of Quebec was splattered with what was believed to be pig blood.
In June 2016, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the cultural center.
In the neighboring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015, a day after an attack by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris.