Said El Amari doesn't usually go to the mosque on Sundays. But he made an exception on January 29 to attend evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec.

That was the day a gunman opened fire inside, killing six people and leaving Canada's Muslim community reeling.

"The images still haunt me," says El Amari, who was wounded in the shooting.

It began minutes after the prayers ended. The 40-year-old father of four was heading toward the exit when he heard the shots and quickly sought refuge in a corner.

"Several others had crammed in there to hide," he said. "I was the last one."

When he felt a bullet hit his stomach, he remained standing, his body limp, leaning against a wall. "I knew I was in the killer's sights," he says. "I didn't move, hoping the shooter would think I was already dead."

It worked. After emptying a cartridge of bullets on the worshippers, the gunman fled. "I heard people moving in the mosque and I collapsed to the ground," El Amari said.

The alleged shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, has been charged with 11 counts of murder and attempted murder.

A court hearing is scheduled for Monday in which the prosecution will hand over evidence to the defense. Bissonnette is not expected to attend.

Five were seriously injured in the shooting in addition to the six people killed, including a man who remains in intensive care in the hospital after he was shot seven times, including once in the neck.


El Amari spent two months in the hospital, including four weeks in a medically induced coma. When he awoke, he was told the names of the victims and details of what happened at the mosque that evening.

"It was very difficult," he says. He had undergone surgery and now has limited mobility, preventing him from returning to his job as a taxi driver. He is set to see a psychologist to assess his mental trauma.

Within days of the shooting, the mosque's blood soaked carpets were cleaned and the faithful started returning.

But their worries linger. Some may never come back, the center's president, Mohamed Labidi, said. "One man saw his friend shot and killed, it traumatized him," he said. "He finds it too difficult to come alone, without him."

El Amari has returned only three times since the shooting. "It took me several weeks" to work up the courage the first time, he said. "We still feel ambivalent, it's like a yo-yo every day," the mosque's co-founder Boufeldja Benabdallah said. "Our fellow citizens have been very generous, and their goodness had done us good," he added. Security at the mosque has been increased. During each prayer, a man sits close to the entrance and keeps an eye on video from a dozen newly installed security cameras.

Members now need an electronic key to enter the premises and other security measures are also in the works. "The extra security helps a little," El Amari says. "But there is always this fear."