Pope deplores deadly Quebec mosque attack

Vatican City: Pope Francis has condemned the shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in which six people died on Sunday, calling the attack a “tragedy” and said he was praying for the victims and their families.

“His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to the mercy of God the persons who lost their lives and he associates himself through prayer with the pain of their relatives,” read a telegram to the Archbishop of Quebec, Gerald Cyprien LaCroix.

“The Holy Father again strongly condemns the violence that engenders such suffering,” stated the telegram sent by the Vatican’s second-in-command Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The telegram asked God “for the gift of mutual respect and peace” and called the attack, in which eight people were also injured, a “tragedy”.

Two Algerians, a Moroccan, a Tunisian and two people from sub-Saharan Africa died in Sunday’s gun attack on the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, local French language daily Le Journal de Quebec said on its website.

An eyewitness was quoted as telling Radio Canada that two hooded people had burst into the mosque during evening prayers. One opened fire on worshippers and shouted “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for “God is Great,” according to the eyewitness.

Police recovered two automatic weapons and two handguns from the scene of the attack staged during evening prayers, Le Journal de Quebec reported.

The dead were aged between about 35 and 70 years old and 39 people managed to get out of the building unharmed, according to police.

Quebec authorities did not immediately identify the suspects but state-run Radio Canada quoted a source close to the investigation as saying that they were students at Laval University in Quebec City and one was of Moroccan origin.

Le Journal de Quebec and other local media named the suspects as Alexandre Bissonnette et Mohamed Khadir.