OTTAWA: Police in Canada stepped up security patrols at mosques around the country following attacks in New Zealand on Friday (Mar 15) that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned as "absolutely appalling."
The attacks on the two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 people dead, with one gunman - identified as an Australian extremist - apparently livestreaming the assault and publishing a manifesto online.
"Attacking people during prayers is absolutely appalling, and Canada strongly condemns today's shootings in New Zealand," Trudeau said on Twitter.
"Our thoughts and hearts go out to the victims and their families, and we join New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world in grieving."
The flag atop the Canadian parliament was lowered to half-staff in memory of the victims.
Police in Toronto and Montreal - home to Canada's largest Muslim populations - told AFP they have stepped up security around the more than 100 mosques in the two metropolitan regions.
"In response to the attacks in New Zealand, we will have a heightened police presence in the community, focusing on places of worship - especially mosques," Toronto police Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook said.
Similar precautionary measures were taken by authorities in Montreal, Quebec City and elsewhere across the country.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale insisted that "there is no known nexus to Canada and Canada's threat level remains unchanged at 'medium.'"
However, pictures posted to a social media account of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims, included Canadian Alexandre Bissonnette.
Prior to the New Zealand mosques shootings, Canada had seen the worst ever attack on Muslims in the West.
Bissonnette in January 2017 opened fire on worshippers at a Quebec City mosque after evening prayers, killing six men and wounding 35 others.
Both the defence and prosecution are currently appealing the 29-year-old shooter's 40-year prison sentence in that case.