Toronto mosque worshippers tackle man ‘brandishing a hatchet’

Worshippers at a mosque in Toronto subdued an allegedly axe-wielding man who police say attacked people with bear spray during a dawn prayer service.

Police said the 24-year-old man walked into the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic centre in the suburb of Mississauga and allegedly “discharged bear spray towards people in the mosque while brandishing a hatchet” just before 7am on Saturday.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, condemned the attack, calling it “incredibly disturbing” in a tweet. “I strongly condemn this violence – which has no place in Canada – and I’m keeping the community in my thoughts today.

“I also want to applaud the courage of those who were there this morning.”

Speaking on behalf of the mosque, Nadia Hasan of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said a group of about 20 men were praying when the man sprayed them.

“Some of the men turned around and they very bravely decided that they were not going to let him attack them,” she said. “They tackled him to the ground and apprehended him until the police showed up.”

The man, a local resident, was arrested. Police say they’re considering “all possible motivations” for the incident and charges are pending.

Police said the congregants received minor injuries as a result of the bear spray.

“People are obviously quite shaken up and are recovering,” Hasan said. “For the most part, folks are still processing what’s happened and are trying to kind of see how they can ensure that their communities remain secure.”

The Ontario premier, Doug Ford, meanwhile, said: “There is no place in our province for such evil and hateful acts. We must ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”

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