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Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore (right) speaks while Regina Police Chief Evan Bray looks on during a press conference at RCMP

Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore (right) speaks while Regina Police Chief Evan Bray looks on during a press conference at RCMP "F" Division Headquarters in Regina, Canada on September 4, 2022. Damien Sanderson and Myles Sanderson allegedly stabbed and killed 10 people in the morning, and the pair are presently at large. Photo: VCG

Canadian police hunted for two suspects in a stabbing spree that killed 10 people and wounded at least 15 others mostly in a sparsely populated indigenous community early Sunday.

The stabbings across 13 crime scenes were among the deadliest mass killings in modern Canadian history and certain to reverberate throughout the country, which is unaccustomed to bouts of mass violence more commonly seen in the US. 

"I am shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks today," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. 

"As Canadians, we mourn with everyone affected by this tragic violence, and with the people of Saskatchewan," he said.

Police named the two suspects as Damien Sanderson, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 30, providing photos and descriptions but no further details about their motive or the victims.

A statement by indigenous leaders indicated the attacks may have been drug related.

"This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities," said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. The group represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

A mother of two was among the 10 people killed, local media reported, citing the woman's former partner.

"It's sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives," Michael Brett Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

In May, Myles Sanderson was listed as "unlawfully at large" by Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers, a program that encourages the public to cooperate with police. 

There were no further details about why Myles Sanderson was wanted.

The two men were seen traveling in a black Nissan Rogue and spotted in the city of Regina, about 320 kilometers south of the attacks in the James Smith Cree Nation and the village of Weldon, police said.

"It appears that some of the victims may have been targeted, and some may be random. So to speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this point in time," Rhonda Blackmore, Assistant Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told a news conference.

There may be additional injured victims who transported themselves to various hospitals, police said.

James Smith Cree Nation is an indigenous community with a population of about 3,400 people largely engaged in farming, hunting and fishing. Weldon is a village of some 200 people.

The nation's elected elders declared a state of emergency "in response to the numerous murders and assaults on members of the James Smith Cree Nation," and established two emergency operations centers, the nation said in a statement.

Indigenous people account for less than 5 percent of Canada's population of about 38 million and suffer from higher levels of poverty, unemployment and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians.

Trudeau said his government had been in direct communication with the James Smith Cree Nation leadership, adding, "we are ready to assist in any way we can."

Reuters