(Toronto) – The brutal attack on worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec on January 29, 2017, underscores growing concerns about violent intolerance against Muslims, Human Rights Watch said today. The attack occurred during evening prayers at a Quebec City mosque and cultural center, killing six men and wounding 19 others.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (front, 2nd R) joins fellow MPs in a moment of silence after delivering a statement on a deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque, in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 30, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of the victims and to the broader Muslim community in Quebec that this shooting has filled with fear and anxiety,” said Farida Deif, Canada director at Human Rights Watch.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the shooting and said that the victims were “a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith.” A series of other attacks against mosques have been reported in the province in recent years involving vandalism, hate graffiti, and the use of animal blood to deface the exterior of a building. In June 2016, a wrapped pig’s head with the words “bon appétit” was left at the doorstep of the same Islamic Cultural Centre where yesterday’s shooting took place. These incidents have been investigated by the relevant municipal and provincial police services.

Sunday’s fatal shooting highlights the potential threat posed by violent extremism in Quebec and throughout Canada. Media reported that the suspected attacker is a university student who had far right political leanings. A 2016 study on the rise of right-wing extremism in Canada found that of the estimated 100 such groups across Canada, 20 to 25 are in Quebec, the largest number of any province. According to government figures, the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims in Canada more than doubled from 2012 to 2014.

“This fatal attack on a religious minority’s place of worship shows that even though Canada’s government has taken a strong public stand against xenophobia, there is still a real need to confront prejudice and the heightened threat of violence that comes with it,” said Deif.