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  • People leave a mosque after the shooting in Quebec City, Canada, Jan 29, 2017.

    People leave a mosque after the shooting in Quebec City, Canada, Jan 29, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 January 2017

Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, was caught on a nearby bridge with a handgun and two rifles that looked like AK-47s in his car.

Police have charged Alexandre Bissonnette with six counts of first-degree murder in relation to the Quebec City mosque shooting.

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The attack occurred Sunday around 8:00 p.m. local time during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec City, also called the Grande Mosque de Quebec, on Sainte-Foy Street.

Bissonnette, a French-Canadian was caught on a nearby bridge with a handgun and two rifles that looked like AK-47s in his car, according to La Presse.

Jean-Michel Allard-Prus, Bissonnette's classmate at Laval University, told Le Journal de Quebec that Bissonnette “has right-wing political ideas, pro-Israel, anti-immigration. I had many debates with him about Trump. He was obviously pro-Trump.”

Another classmate who grew up with the suspect, Vincent Boissoneault, said they frequently clashed when Bissonnette attacked refugees or expressed support for French far-right leader Le Pen or the United States' Donald Trump, according to the Globe and Mail.

"I can tell you he was certainly no Muslim convert. I wrote him off as a xenophobe. I didn't even think of him as totally racist, but he was enthralled by a borderline racist nationalist movement," Boissoneault said.

La Presse reported that Bissonnette had a history of anti-immigrant and right-wing views. Francois Deschamps, from the organization, Welcome to Refugees, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Bissonette had made harassing comments on an online chat room.

The organization said in a Facebook post that Bissonnette had made remarks critical of feminists and foreigners and that he had expressed sympathies online with the National Front, the far-right political party in France.

The group also posted that he was well-known to them prior to the shooting, “unfortunately (Bissonnette is) known to several activists in Quebec City for his pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist identity positions at Universite Laval and on social networks.” Bissonnette is said to have often trolled progressive groups.

The suspect's Facebook page was removed Monday morning.

Six people were killed and at least eight others were wounded, the Associated Press reported. Some were taken to the University Hospital of Quebec, and others are in hospitals throughout the city, hospital spokesman Richard Fournier said.

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“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui.

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.

At least 20 emergency vehicles arrived at the scene and police quickly set up a security perimeter. Quebec City Police later confirmed that the area had been secured.

Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of Quebec was splattered with what was believed to be pig's blood. And in the neighboring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015.

In June 2016, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the cultural center, with an Islamophobic letter being subsequently distributed in the vicinity.

The mosque installed eight surveillance cameras after these attacks. “We’ve had to be very, very vigilant, careful for our community,” said Boufeldga Benabdallah, a co-founder of the mosque, according to the New York Times.

Quebec's Premier Philippe Couillard expressed solidarity with the Muslim community, tweeting, "Let's unite against violence ... We stand in solidarity with the Muslim people of Quebec," CNN reported.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also took to social media, tweeting: "Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims and their families," in both French and English.

Trudeau called the shooting a "terrorist attack on Muslims" on Monday.

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