Police arrested a 47-year-old man early Tuesday morning who was caught trying to vandalizing a Rosemont Islamic community centre.
It’s the fifth time since April that same mosque has been targeted.
Police say the man attempted to throw a Molotov cocktail through a window of the Assahaba Islamic Community Centre at the corner of Bélanger Street and 23rd Avenue before threatening officers with a sword. Police used a stun gun to subdue the man before arresting him and then transporting him to hospital.
Const. Simon Delorme described the man as a white Quebecer who may be a member of an extremist organization.
He said police were staking out the community centre this morning, following another incident over the weekend. That's when police saw the suspect try to attack the centre.
“Then they start to follow this man and ask for backup. When they try to arrest the man [he took] out a sword and was threatening the police officers,” said Delorme.
Five attacks since April
Police had started surveillance on the community centre because of multiple attacks over the past six weeks. An axe was thrown through the centre’s window on April 8 with anti-Liberal and anti-Muslim messages attached.
In mid-April, a letter containing white powder was sent to the community centre’s director, Adil Charkaoui. That envelope is still being analyzed.
Charkaoui told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty Tuesday morning that the letter also contained death threats against him personally.
“They have lists of people to kill and they put my name first," he told Daybreak.
Last week, an item was thrown through one of the building’s windows with the message, “Kill Islam,” according to members of the centre. Then its front door was broken over the weekend.
He said the people who attend the community centre are frightened by the attacks and called on Premier Philippe Couillard to denounce the acts.
“It creates a kind of anguish within the people who frequent the mosque. Because of this we need to show support and also we need the political leadership to show that there is a political will to fight any of these kinds of actions,” Elmenyawi said.
Charkaoui pleased with police help
Charkaoui, a Morocco-born Muslim who settled in Montreal with his family in 1995, is the community centre's director. He's also a somewhat controversial figure.
He was the subject of a security certificate issued in 2003 and spent more than six years under suspicion of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. He was detained for 21 months and when released, had to wear an electronic GPS bracelet until the certificate was cancelled in 2009. However, Charkaoui always maintained his innocence and successfully challenged the Canadian government at the Supreme Court twice.
Montreal police said investigators are looking at all possible angles, including whether this particular community centre was targeted because of its connection to Charkaoui.
He said the police reacted promptly and added more patrols in the neighbourhood around the community centre.
“It was very good collaboration,” Charkaoui said.