Montreal·FIFTH ESTATE

Quebec City mosque had plans to boost security before attack

The mosque in Quebec City where six men were killed and 19 others were injured had approved plans to strengthen its security measures just two weeks before the fatal attack, the fifth estate has found.

'Succession' of incidents prior to fatal shooting led members to seek heightened measures

A security camera is seen on the exterior of the Quebec City mosque where six men were killed. Members of the mosque had made plans for additional security measures before this week's attack. (CBC)

The mosque in Quebec City where six men were killed and 19 others were injured earlier this week had approved plans to strengthen its security measures just two weeks before the fatal attack, the fifth estate has found.

The plan was approved after police were called to the mosque on at least seven occasions before the shooting to respond to threats or vandalism that occurred.

"Tension was growing," Mohamed Labidi, former president of the mosque, told the fifth estate.

Six men died in the shooting during evening prayers Sunday night at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec (Islamic cultural centre of Quebec). Nineteen people were wounded.

Mohamed Labidi, the former president of the mosque in Quebec City, says that members of the mosque expressed concerns about a 'succession' of incidents before Sunday's shooting. (CBC)

Alexandre Bissonnette, the 27-year-old accused of opening fire on the mosque, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder while using a restricted firearm.

Labidi told the fifth estate that members of the mosque expressed concerns after several incidents that occurred before the shooting on Sunday.

"Two weeks ago we just finalized plans to fortify our mosque," Labidi said.

He said the plans included adding a secured door in the front and an escape door in the back.

Members of the mosque consulted with an architect and approved the plans in mid-January.

A pig's head was left on the doorstep of the Quebec City mosque in June 2016. (Radio-Canada)

"We talked about doing that because of the many acts on the mosque in succession, like graffiti on the walls … the pig's head and now murder," Labidi said.

The advanced security measures are to be implemented by the beginning of June, just before Ramadan.

The previous incidents also prompted the mosque to install additional security cameras.

"At each [previous incident] we had one or two cameras and now we have eight," Labidi told the fifth estate.

'Recognize our friends'

New details are emerging from witnesses who were inside the mosque when the shooting occurred.

Ahmed El Refai, who lives nearby, had just left the mosque before the attack began.

Ahmed El Refai has left the Quebec City mosque before the shooter arrived. Upon seeing police and ambulance arrive El Refai, who lives nearby, returned to the scene and recorded what he saw with his phone. 1:05

"I found the ambulance and the police cars and the whole crime had been committed, and I started shooting live on Facebook," he told the fifth estate.

"We didn't know at that point what was going on until we [saw] the stretchers coming out of the main entrance of the mosque with people wounded, injured and people maybe dead."

He said they started to recognize friends and he called out to one.

"I started shouting at him just to support him and he looked at me."

A memorial is set up inside the mosque. (CBC)

About the Author

Lisa Mayor

Investigative journalist

Lisa Mayor is an investigative journalist at The Fifth Estate, hailing from Thunder Bay, Ontario. She has recently reported on the disappearance of four elderly people from the Muskoka region of Ontario and how governments in Canada rely on gambling addicts for revenue. Lisa can be reached at lisa.mayor@cbc.ca.

With files from Lisa Ellenwood, Lynette Fortune and Andrew Culbert