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Canadian Prime Minister Denounces Mosque Attack As Act Of Terrorism

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Canada is grappling with yesterday's brutal attack on a mosque in Quebec City. The victims were praying when a lone gunman opened fire. Six people died. Two others are in grave condition. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann is in Quebec City and joins us now. Hi there.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: First, what can you tell us about the alleged attacker?

MANN: Well, authorities are being very closed-mouthed. We expect to hear more later this evening. Much of the attention so far has fallen on a French-Canadian man believed to have far-right political views, but Quebec police and the RCMP haven't confirmed yet the name of the suspect who is in custody.

SHAPIRO: Can you clarify for us? There were earlier reports that said two men had been arrested, one of them possibly Muslim. What is the latest on that?

MANN: Yeah, this is still developing, but police now say that one of the individuals taken into custody was a witness and not a person of interest. They believe that this was a single shooter they think with no accomplices. There were names floated earlier in the day today, but again, as of this hour, no one's been arraigned - still a lot of uncertainty - but we do think a single gunman.

SHAPIRO: Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke to parliament today. Tell us what he said.

MANN: Well, he really echoed the message that's just everywhere in Canada today, Ari, that Muslims are part of Canadian life. They're deeply woven into the fabric of these communities.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: These people are just that - people, ordinary Canadians. They were brothers, uncles, fathers and friends.

SHAPIRO: That's Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking to parliament. And Brian, describe the mood there in the city where you are.

MANN: Well, it's absolute dismay. This is a pretty quiet provincial capital, very low crime. The idea of a mass shooting here is just a stunning blow to the sense that this is a really well-integrated community. You know, the fact that this happened in a mosque during prayer service is a terrible echo of the church shooting in Charleston in 2015.

And I will say, too, Ari, that a lot of the response here - what people are talking about is focused on recent events in the U.S. on President Trump and on the refugee restrictions that were announced over the weekend.

SHAPIRO: What do you mean? What are people saying?

MANN: Well, Canada has welcomed a huge number of Muslims in recent years. This has been one of the most welcoming countries, especially during the refugee crisis in Syria. And the view of Donald Trump's policies toward at least, you know, some of these Muslim countries - it's viewed with deep hostility here.

There's a lot of concern, too, that viewing people of Muslim faith as suspicious, as sort of other, as dangerous - that this is an idea that could spread north across the border. And so a lot of the political response here from the conservatives as well as the Liberal Party has been to say clearly that Muslims are not different. They're Canadian. Here again is Justin Trudeau.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUDEAU: We are kind. We are generous, and we embrace one another not in spite of our differences but because of that.

MANN: I should say that U.S. President Donald Trump did call Trudeau today to offer his condolences, and there were also vigils planned right across Canada. In fact, I'm speaking to you now from just down the road from the mosque where the attack took place, and I'll be going to what's expected to be a really massive vigil here later and others right across Canada. It's expected to be a bitter, cold night, but a lot of people are going to turn out.

SHAPIRO: That's Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio speaking with us from Quebec City. Thanks, Brian.

MANN: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLDMUND SONG, "LEADING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.