The man accused of carrying out a mass shooting in a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, was reportedly a fervent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump and frequently railed against immigrants, refugees and feminists on social media.
Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old political science student at Canada's Laval University, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder for allegedly killing six men and wounding 19 others, shooting them all in the back as they prayed on Jan. 29, reports the National Post.
According to those connected with Bissonnette, he was not known for politically activism until March 2016, after Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's nationalist movement, visited the area, notes The Globe and Mail. Le Pen's message turned Bissonnette to nationalist politics.
"He was someone who made frequent extreme comments in social media denigrating refugees and feminism," said Francois Deschamps, who runs a Facebook page dedicated to supporting those seeking temporary asylum, according to The Globe and Mail. "It wasn't outright hate, rather part of this new nationalist conservative identity movement that is more intolerant than hateful."
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Fellow Laval student Vincent Boissioneault, who studies international relations, said that he and Bissonnette frequently butted heads on Facebook and would argue over their opinions on topics including refugees, Trump and Le Pen.
"I can tell you he was certainly no Muslim convert," Boissoneault said. "I wrote him off as a xenophobe. I didn't even think of him as totally racist, but he was enthralled by a borderline racist nationalist movement."
Those who knew the suspect from childhood said that he was quiet and socially awkward but would stand up to bullies.
"He was a really good guy," said childhood friend Michel Kingma-Lord, who said he hadn't talked to Bissonnette for some time and was unaware if he had been radicalized. "A very generous kind of guy, always listening, polite."
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Police said that they had no reason to keep tabs on the suspect before the attack, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a "despicable act," according to the National Post.
"This was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith," Trudeau declared while addressing Parliament. "Make no mistake this was a terrorist attack. It was an attack on our most intrinsic and cherished values as Canadians -- values of openness, diversity and freedom of religion."