Montreal

Worshipper says he talked to alleged gunman at mosque days before the attack

Lhoussine El Manoug, a member of the Quebec City mosque where six people were shot to death last Sunday, said he met the alleged shooter at the mosque days before the attack.

Lhoussine El Manoug says he's '100 per cent' sure man he spoke to was Alexandre Bissonnette

Lhoussine El Manoug, a member of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, said he is 100 per cent sure he saw alleged shooter Alexandre Bissonnette three days before six of his fellow worshippers were gunned down. (CBC)

A member of the Quebec City mosque where six people were shot to death last Sunday says he met the alleged shooter at the mosque three days before the attack.

Lhoussine El Manoug told CBC News the man was sitting in the mosque's foyer on Thursday evening, after prayers finished.

He said he spoke with the young man, originally believing he was interested in learning about Islam.

"I said, 'Salaam,'" said El Manoug. "He answered me, 'Salut.'"

"He said, 'J'aime Allah [I love Allah],'" El Manoug said.

Quebec provincial and municipal police officers stand guard after the shooting at the Quebec City Islamic cultural centre on Jan. 30. (Andre Pichette/EPA)

Thinking the young man wanted to know more about his faith, El Manoug continued to speak to him.

"I was trying to explain to him that Allah, it's the same God as the Jews and the Christians."

He said, "J'aime Allah [I love Allah]."- Lhoussine El Manoug, describing a conversation he said he had with the alleged shooter days before the attack.

At that moment, he said, another member of the mosque, Azzedine Soufiane, said to him on his way out the door, "This guy is not interested."

El Manoug said the visitor had started talking about how much he loved kebabs.

"I told him we were talking about religion, not food."

El Manoug said the man asked for money to take the bus to Montreal.

"There's no bus that goes to Montreal at this time in the evening," El Manoug said. "So I invited him to continue the discussion outside the mosque."

He said the man told him it was too cold to talk outside, but they left the mosque together, continuing their discussion outside.

El Manoug said the conversation lasted no more than five minutes before the man walked away.

'This person is the one I met'

At the time, El Manoug said, he had no reason to think the man was a threat.

The shooting happened at the same time in the evening, three days later.

Among the six dead was Soufiane, the owner of a nearby grocery store and halal butcher shop. the man who had told El Manoug in passing on Thursday that the visitor wasn't interested in learning about Islam.

El Manoug said he didn't ask the visitor for his name or identification. 

He said the man was slightly built and carrying what looked like a student's bag.

It wasn't until Monday, he said, when the identity of the accused shooter was revealed, that he realized the man he'd been speaking to on Thursday was Alexandre Bissonnette.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, has been charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder following the mosque shooting. (Facebook)

Bissonnette, a 27-year-old who lived a few blocks from the mosque, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder in connection with Sunday's attack.

El Manoug said he had been at the mosque where police were talking to members about safety and security issues and asking for any information they might have.

"I Googled 'suspect fusillade Quebec [suspect shooting Quebec],'" he said. "I found his picture. It was the same person. Immediately, I told [police] that this person is the one I met."

"I'm sure, 100 per cent."

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