The Montreal police arrested five people this week as part of an investigation into how a restaurant in the St-Laurent borough has been the target of gunfire and arson fires in recent months.
Two of the people arrested — Nathan Purenne and Haithem Ben Hassine, both 18 — appeared before a judge at the Montreal courthouse Thursday where they were both charged with being in possession of loaded and restricted firearms. Purenne is alleged to have possessed a pistol, while Ben Hassine is charged with possessing a revolver.
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The Crown objected to the release of both men and they will be detained for a bail hearing scheduled fro Friday.
“Three other suspects aged 18 and 19 were arrested and later released. Charges could be filed later,” the Montreal police said in a release.
As part of the same investigation, eight search warrants were carried out in the boroughs of Plateau-Mont-Royal, Mercier—Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles, as well as in Laval. Police seized the two handguns, an assault weapon, a high capacity magazine, ammunition, a fake weapon (made using a 3D printer), narcotics and cellphones.
According to the Montreal police, between “February and March 2023, a restaurant in the borough of St-Laurent, located near the intersection of Deslauriers and Benjamin-Hudon streets, was the target of gunfire and arson. The latest event dates back to March 19, when the restaurant window was riddled with bullets around 3:45 a.m. A suspicious white vehicle fled before police arrived.”
None of the people inside the restaurant at the time were injured.
The investigation, which is ongoing, was led by the Montreal police organized crime division and aided by police from neighbourhood Station 7 in St-Laurent as well as the arson squad. It is also connected to Project Mèche, “a co-ordinated investigation and visibility project concerning extortion, threats and arson targeting merchants located in the territories of Laval, Montreal and the North Shore. The joint efforts of the Laval police, Sûreté du Québec and the Montreal aim to put an end to these acts of violence.”
The same restaurant, Bab Sharqi, was also the target of arson fires between November and December 2022. In January, the Montreal police arrested Dore Badawi, 32, as a suspect in a fire set at the restaurant on Dec. 30. Badawi’s case returns to court in August.
The owner of Bab Sharqi was scheduled to have a hearing before the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux on Thursday. According to the liquor board’s role, the hearing was over “public tranquility.” Another hearing is scheduled to be held in May.
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