Canadian police bolster presence in wake of New Zealand mosque attacks

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Police forces across Canada are offering heightened security and after shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left dozens dead and injured.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the attacks “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” after at least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in shootings at two mosques (Al-Noor and Linwood) filled with worshippers during Friday prayers.

A man in his 20s has been charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday, said police.

Ardern said the national security threat level in New Zealand was being raised to the second highest level.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted Friday that Canada’s threat level remains unchanged, at “medium,” in the wake of the shootings. Canada’s national terrorism threat level has hovered at medium since October 2014 — meaning a violent act of terrorism could occur in the near term.

Police in Quebec City, which endured a mosque attack two years ago that killed six people, Montreal, Gatineau, Que., Ottawa, Edmonton and Toronto have all said they’re providing heightened security near mosques Friday.

In Ottawa, police said they want to try to help people feel safe and supported.

A police car drives past the Grand Mosque in Paris on Friday. France is increasing security measures at mosques and other religious sites after the New Zealand attack. (Francois Mori/The Associated Press)

“We have no intelligence to suggest that any group in Ottawa is allied with the suspects in New Zealand, but the possibility of a copycat lone actor is always a concern,” wrote police Chief Charles Bordeleau in a letter to the community.

A spokesperson for Goodale said Canada routinely shares intelligence with New Zealand and its other Five Eyes intelligence allies and is ready to help if needed.

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s signals intelligence agency, said it has reached out to offer both condolences and operational assistance to its New Zealand counterpart, the Government Communications Security Bureau.

“We’re not able to provide any specific comments on operational activities offered by CSE to allied partners, though they would align with our legislated mandate,” said spokesperson Evan Koronewski.

Canadian police offering more security

Photos of the ammunition believed to belong to the suspect and that were posted on a Twitter account that has now been suspended show the name of Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty in the 2017 shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, alongside the names of others who had committed race- or religion-based killings.

“We are aware of reports relating to Alexandre Bissonnette’s name appearing in media in connection to this event; however, we cannot comment further at this time,” said Koronewski.

“When I heard the news, it hit like a ton of bricks,” Mohammed Labidi, a co-founder and former president of the Quebec City mosque, told Radio-Canada. “It brings up the pain that we experienced here.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Friday condemning the attack.

“Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest. Canada remembers too well the sorrow we felt when a senseless attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of many innocent people gathered in prayer,” reads the statement.

“Canada condemns this attack, and will continue to work closely with New Zealand, our close partner and friend, and others to take action against violent extremism. Hate has no place anywhere. We must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people — no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born — can feel safe and secure.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called the attack “a despicable act of evil,” tweeting: “There are no words strong enough to condemn this kind of vile hatred. I am praying for peace for the families of those lost and recovery for those injured.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed those sentiments online.

“Islamophobia kills — and has no place anywhere in the world.”

Global Affairs Canada said there have been no reports of any Canadian citizens involved in the deadly shootings.

“We are working closely with local authorities and stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens as required,” said spokesperson Richard Walker.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-threat-level-1.5057778?cmp=rss