Man Arrested After Mosque Shooting Was Helping Victims

White House uses attack to defend travel ban
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2017 4:55 AM CST
Man Arrested After Mosque Shooting Was Helping Victims
Alexandre Bissonnette is escorted to a van after appearing in court for Sunday's deadly shooting at a mosque, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in Quebec City   (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press via AP)

The man mistakenly arrested during Sunday night's attack on a Quebec City mosque says he was trying to save a friend's life—but he understands why he ended up spending a night in jail. Mohamed Belkhadir, a 29-year-old engineering student of Moroccan origin, says he was clearing snow outside the mosque when gunfire erupted, the Toronto Star reports. He says he ran inside, called 911, and was helping an injured friend when an armed man appeared. Belkhadir says he fled, not realizing the man was a police officer, and was arrested as a suspect. "I understand," he said after being cleared of suspicion Monday, per the Huffington Post. "I respect that they caught me. They saw me flee, they thought I was suspicious."

Belkhadir was initially identified as one of two gunmen, leading some commenters to mistakenly declare the attack Islamic terrorism. Alexandre Bissonnette, now believed to have been a "lone wolf" shooter, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder on Monday. The 27-year-old's associates tell the Globe and Mail that he made "frequent extreme comments in social media denigrating refugees and feminism," expressing support for President Trump and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, among others. The CBC reports that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the attack to defend Trump's immigration order, calling it a "terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant." (More Quebec City stories.)

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