SAINTE-FOY, QC.—Ahmed Ech-Chahedy was standing about 30 metres away when the gunfire started.

The man carried an “assault rifle,” he said. He took his time. And his face was not covered – contrary to early reports, he said in an interview.

Ech-Chahedy, a taekwando instructor, was with his son and one of the boy’s friends, when the shooter entered the mosque.

“If I think about it, it probably lasted five or six minutes,” said Ech-Chahedy, who managed to flee the building and shelter in a nearby restaurant. “It was planned because even the way he fired at people—he was calm.”

Police investigating the terror attack at a Quebec City mosque have received witness accounts that an individual matching the description of the shooter was seen outside the building several days prior to the shooting.

Mohamed Labidi, the vice president of the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, told the Star that, during a Monday night meeting, one member of the Muslim community claimed to have been approached a few days earlier by an individual who was asking for money.

Labidi said they claimed that the person was in fact the alleged killer, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, who is charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

“It was two or three days before,” Labidi said in an interview. “He was in front of the mosque and he asked for money.”

Labidi said he is hopeful that surveillance camera footage from inside and outside the building will allow investigators to substantiate the claim, which is feeding the sentiment among the mosque’s congregation that Sunday night’s mass shooting was planned with care.

The consequences of the shooter’s actions are known now to all: Six men are dead while two more remain in hospital in critical but stable condition.

But a Muslim community that is still struggling with shock and grief is also now being forced to cope with the administration of a murderous tragedy that has widowed and orphaned women and children and ripped apart families and friendships.

“These people who are dead—they have debt, they have mortgages, they have these things and who is going to pay for that?” asked Hamid Giarrouma, who hosts a local community radio station. “Will his wife have to deal with his affairs and his debts? Who’s going to look out for his children?”

So far, the families of the dead are relying on charitable donations from organizations like Islamic Relief, which sent a team of people from Montreal and the Toronto area to assess the needs and coordinate delivery of the necessary support.

“Obviously there’s a big shock now so we’re going to wait, but we just want to make sure they know we’re here–that they don’t have to worry.,” said Mahmood Qasim, head of fund development for Islamic Relief Canada.

But he added that this terrorist shooting targeting Muslims in Canada was a worrying development, even within an organization that deals in crisis support.

“This is the first time that the Muslim community here has faced anything like this. There is no precedent for it. We are all in shock, to be honest.”

In a six-storey apartment building Betlike a short drive from the mosque where Ibrahima Barry, 39, and Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, had gone together to pray, the halls of the fifth and sixth floors were strewn with boots and crowded with women bringing food and men making telephone calls and offering handshakes of condolence.

Among them was Mamoudou Afia Barry, the older brother of Mamadou Tanou, who had just arrived in town from his home in Columbus, Ohio, and was being briefed on what help and arrangements the Guinean community in Quebec City had already offered and what else was available.

“The decision we have to make is whether to take his body back (to Guinea) or have the funeral here, since his mom is here and his wife and kids are here,” he said. “That’s what we are trying to figure out right now.”

But in the flurry of activity, Mamadou Afia was also still trying to process the senseless death of his brother, which leaves behind two young boys, aged two and three.

“My brother was telling me that you guys haven’t had a murder in this town in 18 months,” he told a reporter. “Did it have to happen now?”

Saramady Touré, Guineau’s ambassador to Canada, expressed a similar sentiment after arriving at the apartments to express his condolences to the two expatriate families and to offer his government’s assistance should the families of the two men wish the burials to take place in the land of their birth.

“Canada is a land of asylum and refuge,” he said, surrounded by community leaders from Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City who had come to offer their support and sympathy to the grieving families.

People also came together on the campus of Université Laval to honour Khaled Belkacemi, a professor of soil and agri-food engineering who was among the dead.

Immediately following the moment of silence, a group of his students walked silently together up to Belkacemi’s second-floor office, laid flowers against his door, then hugged each other and cried.

Standing silently off to the side was Herve Nlandu, one of Belkacemi’s doctorate students. When he couldn’t find a job in France after completing his studies, Nlandu reached out to Belkacemi, whose research interests matched his own. Belkacemi was immediately welcoming and helpful, and urged Nlandu to come to Laval, which he did in 2015.

The two were supposed to run an experiment in the lab together on Monday. When Belkacemi didn’t show, Nlandu started asking other students if they had seen him, becoming increasingly worried.

“Then, I saw an email saying he was gone,” Nlandu said, his eyes filling with tears. “I thought, this is not possible.”

Others in Quebec City’s Muslim community are already thinking about how best to honour those who died—including Azzeddine Soufiane, a well-liked butcher who reportedly confronted the gunman and died while trying to wrestle away his gun.

“Azzeddine was someone who defended his compatriots with his body. He died. He’s a hero. How will we honour him? Will it just be a funeral and some financial help for his family?” the man asked at a community meeting held late Monday evening, a video of which was posted to the mosque’s Facebook page.

“These are people that we have to immortalize. I want my daughter to remember that there was a person called Azzeddine, that there was a person named Khaled, that there was a person named Ibrahima,” said the man, listing the names of three of the six people killed.

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