Shooter in Quebec City mosque attack had 2 guns, say police sources

Shooter in Quebec City mosque attack had 2 guns, say police sources

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2017-01-31

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Accused gunman has reputation as online troll who expresses support for far-right politicians

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The shooter in Sunday's mosque attack abandoned a long gun in the snow when it failed to fire and then returned to the mosque with a handgun to shoot his victims, police told Radio-Canada.

These are among the details emerging about the massacre at the Islamic cultural centre in the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy shortly before 8 p.m. ET Sunday.

According to police sources, when the long gun jammed, the attacker briefly left the mosque and returned moments later to shoot his victims with a nine-millimetre handgun. The exact types of weapons are not known, however, sources said there were 15 rounds in the handgun, which was registered to Alexandre Bissonnette.

When Bissonnette, 27, was arrested a short time later near Île d'Orléans, about five kilometres away, police found the handgun in his car.

Identified with far right

The nervous-looking university student, handcuffed and dressed in a white police-issued jumpsuit, shuffled into a Quebec City courtroom yesterday to be charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder, and then shuffled out.

The appearance took no more than five minutes, and the young man appeared behind plated glass, but it was the public's first glimpse of Bissonnette, the accused in Sunday's mass shooting at a mosque.

But we're starting to learn more about the only person now facing charges in the deadly attack.

Bissonnette grew up in Cap-Rouge, a Quebec City suburb. He lived with his twin brother, Mathieu Bissonnette, in an apartment in Sainte-Foy, close to the mosque where Monday's attack took place, and Laval University, where he was studying political science and anthropology.

At university, Bissonnette appeared to seek out students with conservative political views.

He took part in at least one informal discussion group, but quickly found its members too moderate and stopped attending.

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"He was not interested by our politics meeting because we are conservative and moderate right wing," said Éric Debroise, a Laval University student and member of the discussion group.

"He is more far right or alt-right."

Trump, Le Pen political idols

Debroise described Bissonnette as nice but anti-social. In their meetings, he said, Bissonnette often spoke admiringly of U.S. President Donald Trump and the French far-right politician Marine Le Pen.

Trump enjoys the support of the alt-right, a loosely defined political movement that includes white nationalists and white supremacists.

alexandre bissonette

Bissonnette's neighbours say police spent several hours searching his apartment and his parents' home. (Facebook)

The alt-right is known, too, for its army of online trolls who circulate racist memes and virulent attacks on perceived opponents.

Inside Quebec's far right: Where do Quebec's extremist groups fit in?

Within activist circles in Quebec City, Bissonnette is considered an extremist troll in his own right.

In a Facebook post, a refugee support group said Bissonnette is "known to several activists in Quebec City for his pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist positions."

The group said Bissonnette is fond of using the term "feminazi" — alt-right slang for those who advocate women's rights.

'A closed-off young man'

Bissonnette's neighbours told Radio-Canada they saw police conduct an extensive search of the Bissonnette brothers' apartment in Sainte-Foy.

Officers left with several bags, residents said. Police also searched his parents' home in Cap-Rouge.

"He's a very closed-off young man," said Réjean Bussière, a neighbour of Bissonnette's parents.

Bissonnette and his brother were not the kind to bother others, Bussiè​re said, "but they were not social people."

Along with his studies at Laval, Bissonnette worked in the call centre of Héma-Québec, the province's blood bank.

A statement from the agency said the organization is "shocked" to learn that he was among their employees.

"As an organization whose primary mission is dedicated to the gift of life, these events have sent a shock wave through the organization."

Bissonnette's next scheduled court appearance is Feb. 21.

With files from Radio-Canada

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