Police arrived on the scene and made arrests.                                                                                                       Picture: AFP

At least five people were shot dead by gunmen during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday, said Mohamed Yangui, the president of the mosque.

“This is deplorable,” Yangui told dpa on the phone. “I just got a call from the morgue asking me whether I could come in to identify five bodies.”

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An unknown number of people were also feared injured in the shooting in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood, which happened at 7:55pm local time (0055 GMT Monday).

Quebec City police spokesperson David Poitras confirmed that there had been fatalities and injured people, as well as arrests following the shooting but declined to give precise numbers.

“The situation is under control, the area has been secured and we have evacuated the premises of all occupants,” Poitras said. “The investigation continues.”

Quebec City police are collaborating with their colleagues from the Quebec Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal police force in Canada.

According to local broadcaster Radio-Canada, two suspects were arrested in relation to the shooting.

The reason for the attack is not yet known.

Yangui said mosque administrators were not able to get into the building and there was a large police perimeter around the Islamic Cultural Centre.

“These people go to their prayers peacefully every day but now some of them will never come back home from their prayers,” Yangui said in French. “I’m shocked, I don’t have words to describe how I’m feeling.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard tweeted that the province was mobilizing to assure the safety of the City’s residents.

“Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence,” Couillard wrote. “We offer our solidarity to the loved ones of the victims and the injured and their families.”

The same mosque was targeted in June when a pig’s head was left on its doorstep.