A stabbing spree in an Indigenous community and a nearby town in Canada’s Saskatchewan province left at least 10 people dead and 15 wounded on Sunday, police said, as they launched a manhunt for two suspects in one of the nation’s deadliest incidents of mass violence.
Police responding to emergency calls found 10 dead in the remote Indigenous community of James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby town of Weldon, Saskatchewan, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore told a news conference.
She said at least 15 other people had been wounded and transported to hospitals.
“It is horrific what has occurred in our province today,” she said. “We are actively looking for the two suspects.”
The alleged attackers fled in a vehicle and have been identified as Myles and Damien Sanderson, aged 30 and 31 respectively, both with black hair and brown eyes.
The James Smith Cree Nation, with a population of 2,500, declared a local state of emergency, while many residents of Saskatchewan province were urged to shelter in place.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attacks “horrific and heartbreaking” in a tweet, offering condolences and urging residents to heed authorities’ instructions.
Blackmore said authorities believe “some of the victims were targeted by the suspects and others were attacked randomly.”
“To speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this point in time,” she added.
No information was released about the victims.
Television images showed a few rural homes in fields of tall grass and trees, cordoned off with police tape, while on social media locals shared images of the attacks’ aftermath, such as the broken door handle to a burgled home.
Weldon resident Diane Shier told local media her neighbour, a man who lived with his grandson, was killed in the attack.
“I am very upset because I lost a good neighbour,” she told the Canadian Press news agency.
‘Maximum’ police resources
In recent years, Canada has witnessed a rampaging gunman masquerading as a policeman kill 22 people in Nova Scotia, another kill six and wound five worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, and a driver of a van mow down pedestrians in Toronto killing 10 and injuring 16.
The death toll from the van attack rose to 11 when an injured woman who had spent more than three years in the hospital also succumbed to her injuries.
“There are no words to adequately describe the pain and loss caused by this senseless violence,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe after Sunday’s attack.
A “dangerous person” alert had been issued in the morning in Saskatchewan, as police responded to multiple stabbings in multiple locations in the Indigenous community and Weldon.
Police received a call at 5:40 am about a stabbing at the James Smith Cree Nation, followed quickly by more calls reporting further stabbings, at a total of 13 separate locations, Blackmore said.
The callers identified the suspects, she said.
“Maximum” police resources were deployed for the search for the suspects, she said, but added that “their location and direction of travel is unknown.”
After reported sightings of the two men in Regina, the provincial capital that is more than 300 kilometers to the south, the alert and search expanded to include neighbouring Manitoba and Alberta provinces — a vast region.
In Regina, police chief Evan Bray said authorities were on high alert with additional officers deployed as sports fans descended on the city for a sold-out Labour Day weekend match between the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority told AFP in a statement it had activated emergency protocols to deal with “a high number of critical patients.”
“We can confirm that multiple people are being triaged and cared for at multiple sites and that a call for additional staff to help respond to this situation has occurred,” it added.
Three helicopters were dispatched from Saskatoon and Regina to the remote northern communities to transport stabbing victims and bring a doctor to the scene.