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Shooting interrupts Quebec separatists' election victory

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A gunman has brought chaos to a separatist election victory rally in the Canadian province of Quebec, killing one man and wounding another.

The shooting cast a shadow over initial results indicating the Parti Quebecois was set to form a minority government after nine years in opposition.

PQ leader Pauline Marois was giving a victory speech in Montreal when shots were heard at the back of the hall.

She was rushed off the stage and a man was later arrested.

The gunman's target was unclear but the suspect, said by police to be aged 62, was later heard shouting "The English are waking up" in accented French before adding in English that there would be "payback".

Two shots were reportedly fired. One 45-year-old man was fatally wounded, another is in a critical condition in hospital but said to be out of danger.

Both men had been working in the Metropolis concert hall and had tried to stop the gunman, reports said. A third man was taken to hospital in shock.

After walking out of the hall, the gunman then lit a fire outside the building. Witnesses said he had thrown a petrol bomb at the entrance, Journal de Quebec reported.

TV pictures showed the suspect being held on the ground in the street outside and a rifle being recovered. He was wearing a black hood and what looked like a blue dressing gown over black clothing. A handgun was also seized, reports said.

"We don't know what was hidden behind that kind of event. Our investigator is going to meet with him overnight, trying to work out what happened," Montreal police spokesman Daniel Richer told reporters.

The attack marred PQ celebrations after claiming a projected 54 of the 125 seats in the primarily French-speaking province.

It is unclear whether the party's victory will lead to a new referendum on separation from the rest of Canada.

Previous PQ governments held such votes in 1980 and 1995, but both failed.

The BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto said the party leader had just expressed her desire for Quebec's independence when the shooting happened. "We want a country and we will have it," she had said.

Popular support within Quebec for another referendum is low, our correspondent says, but Pauline Marois has promised to hold one if the "winning conditions are right".

The shots were not picked up on the live TV broadcast which showed the PQ leader speaking anxiously to party colleagues for some time.

"What's going on?" she was heard asking security guards as she was bundled away from the podium.

She later returned to the stage to ask supporters to disperse calmly.

Police acknowledged that the PQ leader had been at risk but said the shots were fired some distance from the stage. Witnesses said the gunman had been less than 25ft (7m) from the stage at one point.

In a statement issued later on the party's Twitter feed, Pauline Marois said that "following this tragedy, all Quebecers were in mourning today facing such a gratuitous act of violence".

Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said he was "angered and saddened" by the shooting.

"It is a tragic day where an exercise of democracy is met with an act of violence," he added.

Pauline Marois, now the province's first woman premier-elect, has a list of demands for Mr Harper, including further strengthening of laws to protect Quebec's French language and identity.

"I would like to have the responsibility about the linguistic policy," she said, "about the French policy on the territory of Quebec.

"About culture, about communication and we would like to have the responsibility of the unemployment programme."

Ms Marois, 63, will now become the province's first female premier.

The PQ was in a close-run contest with the governing Liberals and a popular new middle-ground party, Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ).

Incumbent Liberal Premier Jean Charest has lost his seat.

His party is on course to lose 14 seats, giving it 50 rather than 64 in the outgoing parliament. The CAQ is expected to have 19 seats.

But Mr Charest stressed that the PQ had only gained a minority victory:

"The result of this election campaign speaks to the fact that the future of Quebec lies within Canada."

Turnout was strong with nearly six million people voting in the only majority French-speaking province of Canada to choose 125 members of the national assembly (MNAs).

Many voters contend that the main issue is Quebec's flailing economy, our correspondent says.

The province is weighed down by a staggering C$184bn ($186bn; £117bn) of debt, he adds.

Quebec has also been beset for the past year with large student demonstrations - some violent - opposing the government's attempts to increase tuition fees.

More than 80% of Quebecers are French-speakers but the majority of the population are thought to see the issue of separation settled.----


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Added: Sep-5-2012 Occurred On: Sep-5-2012
Regional News, Politics
Tags: shooting, quebec, seperatism, elections, canada, french, english, tensions
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (load item map)
Views: 2474 | Comments: 60 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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