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Local police heighten security in wake of New Zealand mosque attacks

Last Updated Mar 15, 2019 at 5:36 pm EDT

Toronto police are heightening security at local mosques in the wake of an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 49 people and injured dozens more.

Officials say there will be an increased police presence in the community, focused on places of worship – especially mosques. “We make the appropriate adjustments to our plans in order to mitigate the potential risks to public safety,” Toronto police said in a statement.

Mayor John Tory said he was deeply saddened by the terror attack in New Zealand and adds he “stands with our Muslim community to condemn this hate-fueled violence.” He also said the Toronto sign will be dimmed to mourn the victims of the terrorist attack.

The CN Tower will also go dark tonight to honour the victims of the New Zealand attack.

Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord said he has been in contact with members of his Muslin Advisory Committee and the Muslim Council of Peel. “I want to reassure our Muslim community that our number one priority is to keep our community safe.”

He adds they will be connecting with various leaders of local mosques and other places of worship “to check their well-being and work to resolve any concerns they may have.”

Officers will also be increasing their patrols and presence at places of worship.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford strongly condemned the horrifying attack, tweeting, “I join people across Ontario and Canada and stand with all legislators at Queen’s Park in condemning this hatred and violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also condemned the fatal shootings, saying the attack on people during prayers is “absolutely appalling.”

In a statement, Trudeau said, “To the people of New Zealand and to Muslim communities around the world: you are in our hearts and minds. We join in your grief and stand with you at this incredibly difficult time.”

Meanwhile, Muslims in Quebec City say they are in shock over the mass shootings which come a little more than two years after their community came under attack.

One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.

There are unconfirmed reports that the shooter was influenced by Alexandre Bissonnette, the former Universite Laval student convicted of killing six people at a mosque in Quebec City on Jan. 29, 2017.

A now-deleted Twitter account that is believed to be linked to the accused shooter shows what appear to be three assault-rifle magazines, one of which has Bissonnette’s name on it.

A now-deleted Twitter account believed to be linked to the accused shooter shows what appear to be three assault-rifle magazines, one of which has Bissonnette’s name on it. Photo credit: Twitter

In a statement released by his lawyers on Friday, Bissonnette said he is “very affected” by the attacks.

“Mr. Bissonnette is neither looking to be imitated nor to serve as a model to anyone wanting to perpetrate an act of violence or follow in his footsteps,” the statement said.

“Mr. Bissonnette profoundly regrets the acts he committed and hopes that anyone going through problems or difficulties speaks out and seeks help, something he was unable to do adequately,” the lawyers continued. “Nothing justifies committing violent acts like that towards others.”

His lawyers also pointed out that Bissonnette’s appeal is part of a “legal debate” and is not intended to “minimize in any way the seriousness of the acts he committed.”

Boufeldja Benabdallah says his thoughts are also with the families of victims in Quebec City who are being forced to relive what they went through in January 2017.

He said people in his community are feeling indescribable pain, adding that it is time for lawmakers to legislate against extremism.

Benabdallah told reporters Friday in Quebec City those who suffered through the 2017 attack are reeling again in light of another attack on a place of worship.

“I’m convinced they are feeling a terrible pain. Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ ” Benabdallah said.

“The mothers will remember the 29th, when they ran to get husbands who were killed by Alexandre Bissonnette”

Benabdallah added that amid the mourning, it was time to speak out against extremism in all its forms.

“We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change,” Benabdallah said.

“The world cannot continue like this.”