A 27-year-old student allegedly known for his right-wing, nationalist views has appeared in court in Canada charged with murdering six people during a shooting at a Quebec City mosque.
Suspect Alexandre Bissonnette made a brief court appearance and did not enter a plea over the attack, which left six people dead during evening prayers on Sunday.
He was charged with six counts of murder and five of manslaughter.
Wearing a white prison jump suit, his hands and feet shackled, he stared down at the floor and fidgeted, but did not speak.
Prosecutors said all of the evidence was not yet ready and Mr Bissonnette was set to appear again on February 21.
“The charges laid correspond to the evidence available,” said Thomas Jacques, a representative of the prosecutor’s office, when asked why Mr Bissonnette was not charged with terrorism-related offences.
It has emerged Mr Bissonnette, a French-Canadian, voiced support for the French far-right party of Marine Le Pen and had liked US President Donald Trump on his Facebook page.
He was not previously known to police, but a Facebook post by the group Welcome to Refugees — Quebec City, said Mr Bissonnette was “unfortunately known to several activists in Quebec City for his pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist identity positions at Laval University and on social networks.”
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.”
Fellow student Vincent Boissoneault
He said they frequently clashed over Mr Bissonnette’s opinions about refugees and support for Ms Le Pen and Mr Trump.
Mr Bissonnette’s lawyer, Jean Petit, declined to comment at the courthouse on Monday. Quebec’s Laval University confirmed Mr Bissonnette was a social science student there.
Mr Bissonnette was a cerebral “nerdy outcast”, said former high school classmate Simon de Billy, adding the suspect and his twin brother were inseparable.
He was an avid reader, knew a lot about history and about current issues, current politics, those kinds of topics. He was just a bit of a loner, always with his twin brother, didn’t have any friends.”
Former high school classmate Simon de Billy
Five victims still critical
Canadian police also said five survivors were in a critical condition and 12 others suffered minor injuries. The victims ranged from 35 to 65 years old.
A person who was arrested with Mr Bissonnette following the attack was no longer a suspect, police also said.
That man is now considered a witness, and is of Moroccan descent although his nationality was not immediately known. He was named by local media as Mohammed Belkhadir
Police declined to give details of those arrested or possible motives for the shooting at the mosque.
Authorities initially said they had arrested two suspects, but in a Twitter message, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that “following the investigation, the second individual is now considered as a witness.”
Police said on Monday morning (Canadian time) they were confident no other suspects were involved in the attack.
“They consider this a lone wolf situation,” the source said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier called the shooting “a terrorist attack on Muslims”.
US President Donald Trump called Mr Trudeau to express his condolences “and offered to provide any assistance as needed,” said Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad.
The shooting came over a weekend when Mr Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees, speaking in response to Trump’s order to halt the US refugee program and to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
Trump’s action, which the president said was aimed at protecting Americans from the threat of attacks by militant Islamists, was widely condemned in the United States and abroad as targeting Muslims.