Mosque shooting victims: Six men who sought better lives in Quebec

On the last day of his life, Azzeddine Soufiane closed up his grocery shop on Ste.-Foy Road as usual and drove two minutes down the street to his city mosque. He knew the way well. He made the trip at least once a day so he could attend prayer services.
Last Sunday was the final ride. During the evening prayer, Mr. Soufiane, a big-hearted man known to dispense advice on halal meats as readily as tips to newcomers on affordable housing, was gunned down inside the one place he would have thought of as a sanctuary.
He was one of six Muslim worshipers killed in cold blood, an act of terrorism that left a country in shock and countless families and friends in Quebec City grief-stricken.
Azzeddine Soufiane, 57
At Mr. Soufiane’s modest apartment on Monday, mourners poured through the door to share their sorrow, their sobs mixing with a shattered sense of safety in their adopted land.
“The only thing we wished for was to live in peace,” Mr. Soufiane’s widow, Najat Naanaa, said in the home in the suburb of Ste. Foy, where a table was set with pastries and cups of Tim Hortons coffee. She described her 57-year-old husband as her spouse, her friend, as “everything to me.”
“We chose this country so we could live peacefully,” she said. “But that’s not what happened.”
The Sunday attack left six victims, connected by their faith. They were parents, civil servants, academics – six men who had left their countries of origin seeking a better life in the usually sedate suburbs of Quebec City. Most of them had young children.
In some ways, Mr. Soufiane’s trajectory mirrored that of the wider Muslim community, which chose Quebec City to seek out tranquillity and opportunity. He came to the provincial capital in the late 1980s from Morocco and studied geology at Laval University. He eventually opened the area’s first halal grocery, Boucherie Assalam, which became a way station for Muslim newcomers seeking to find their footing in a new land.
“He was almost like the president of the community. He helped and guided all the people who arrived here – students, families,” said Nouzha Enkila, head of a Moroccan community group called La Voix des Marocains du Canada.
Mr. Soufiane’s business grew alongside the number of the city’s Muslims. The Muslim Students Association was founded by four students at Laval University in the early 1970s, and the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, where Sunday’s shooting took place, opened in 1985 and moved its current, larger quarters in 2009. The community has expanded to 6,760 people, according to the 2011 National Household Survey.
Abdelkrim Hassane, 41
Other families were also left stricken by Sunday’s assault. Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, had two young children who waited in vain for their father to return home, a co-worker said.
Mr. Hassane was a civil servant, working as an analyst-programmer for the Quebec government after a stint in IT for the provincial police.
His co-worker, Abderrezak Redouane, said he had gone to the morgue to identify him on Sunday night.
He said that by midnight, Mr. Hassane’s wife had called him, asking about her husband’s whereabouts.
Mr. Redouane said he didn’t have the heart to tell her that Mr. Hassane was dead, so he told her to come to the hospital to inquire herself.
When she arrived, she told Mr. Redouane that their children didn’t want to go to bed because they wanted to see their father come home from the mosque.
Friends gave conflicting accounts of how many children Mr. Hassane had. He was a father of at least two young children, one an infant born a few months ago. He had just returned to work from a three-month parental leave, his office colleague said.
“He was a very peaceful, sensitive man,” Mr. Redouane said.
Born in Algeria, Mr. Hassane had studied computer engineering at the University of Science and Technology – Houari Boumediene, near Algiers.
Mr. Redouane said his colleague had worked in Paris, then in Montreal, for the Sûreté du Québec provincial police force, before deciding to settle in Quebec City.
Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, and Ibrahima Barry, 39
Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, and Ibrahima Barry, 39, were inseparable. The civil servants lived on different floors of the same apartment building on La Pérade street in Ste.-Foy, a friend said.
The two men were both from the Republic of Guinea, in West Africa. Despite having the same surname, they were not related but “they were always together,” said the friend, Moussa Sangaré.
On Sunday evening, Mr. Sangaré said he and the two civil servants were visiting a friend who had recently lost his father. They comforted him, then Mamadou Tanou Barry and Ibrahima Barry left for the mosque and never came back.
Both came from large families that are now reeling from their losses, Mr. Sangaré said.
Ibrahima Barry worked for the province’s health-insurance board. He had four children, the eldest a 12-year-old, and his wife is in poor health, Mr. Sangaré said.
Mamadou Tanou Barry, who was known to his friends as Tanou, worked in IT. He had two boys aged 2 and 4.
Mr. Sangaré said Tanou’s father had died a few years ago so, as the eldest son, he was sending money home to help his extended family. Just a month ago, his mother had arrived in Quebec City to live with her son.
Khaled Belkacemi, 60
Laval University confirmed that one of its professors, Khaled Belkacemi, was also among the victims.
After graduating from Polytechnic School of Algiers in 1983, Mr. Belkacemi obtained his master’s degree and doctorate in chemical engineering from the Université de Sherbrooke.
Both he and his wife, Safia Hamoudi, were professors in agri-food engineering.
Among his research projects, Dr. Belkacemi had worked on finding healthier alternatives to spices used to cure cold cuts.
Boubaker Thabti, 44
Boubaker Thabti only lived five minutes from the mosque. His friends knew that he didn’t work on Sunday nights, so when they couldn’t reach him after the shooting started, they feared the worse.
Several men stood outside the mosque on Sunday night, hoping to get news from him, but they saw his wife leaving in sobs.
One of the friends, Ghazi Hamrouni, said Mr. Thabti worked in a pharmacy and had two young children, a three-year-old and another who was about 10 years old, friends said.
Another friend, Abder Dhakkar, recalled that when he moved to Quebec a year and a half ago from Montreal, Mr. Thabti was one of the first people he met. “He’s so kind; everyone loves him – everyone.”
On Monday, Mr. Soufiane’s grocery was dark, its containers of olives and packages of pita bread sitting on the shelves. Someone left a bouquet of flowers at the door. There was a tragic feel to his death. When the mosque moved into its current location seven years ago, he responded to some anti-Muslim messages by becoming a voice for peace.
“I’ve been in Quebec City for 20 years and never had a problem,” he said in an interview with Le Soleil. “We live in peace and we want it to continue that way.” The wish was shattered this week.

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