Workers who’d been on ‘lockdown’ at the Canadian Parliament were finally let out late on Wednesday night around 10pm local time, after a lone gunman killed a soldier nearby and attempted to storm the Parliament building. Duration: 01:19
Canada Parliament workers speak of attack ordeal
Lone gunman kills Canadian soldier in Ottawa attack
by Michel COMTE
ATTENTION – UPDATES with Harper quotes; defense minister; stocks plunge; Malala Yousafzai ceremony postponed; parliament to reopen ///
OTTAWA, Oct 23, 2014 (AFP) – A gunman whose name was on a terror watch list killed a soldier and attempted to storm Canada’s parliament Wednesday before the assembly’s sergeant-at-arms shot him dead.
The attack — the second this week targeting Canadian military personnel — came as Canadian jets were to join the US-led bombing campaign against Islamist militants in Iraq.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged not to waver, saying Canada would bolster its efforts to combat “terrorist” groups abroad.
“Canada will never be intimidated,” Harper told the nation in a televised address.
“In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts… to fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores.”
The attacker, identified by Canadian media as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was considered a “high risk” suspect whose passport had been confiscated to prevent him fighting abroad.
Instead, he shot and killed a Canadian soldier who was mounting a ceremonial guard at a war memorial in downtown Ottawa before storming into the nearby parliament building.
The soldier was named in reports as Corporal Nathan Cirillo, part of a detachment on ceremonial duties at Parliament Hill, the heart of Canada’s national government and home to its legislature.
At least three people were admitted to hospital with minor injuries.
The attacker was killed, reportedly by a shot fired by the bearer of the House of Commons’ ceremonial mace, Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, who was hailed as a hero by lawmakers.
Police said an investigation was continuing, but Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said a lockdown in certain downtown areas was over, and that it appeared the shooter had acted alone.
“It appears there was just one shooter. And that shooter is dead,” Watson told CNN.
The attack came two days after an alleged Islamist ran over two soldiers, killing one of them, in what officials branded a terrorist attack.
Authorities had raised the security threat level from low to medium after the car attack.
Defense Minister Rob Nicholson said Canada’s military efforts overseas would not change.
“Our deployments in support of the security forces in Iraq will continue unimpeded,” he stressed.
Lawmakers, staff and reporters, evacuated from the historic building on Parliament Hill, spoke of intense gunfire inside.
Video footage posted online by the Globe and Mail newspaper showed police ducking for cover as they advanced along a stone hallway, loud gunfire echoing among parliament’s stone columns.
– ‘Pop, pop, pop’ –
A member of parliament, Maurice Vellacott, told AFP that House of Commons security had told one of his aides the suspect had been killed inside parliament.
“I literally had just taken off my jacket to go into caucus. I hear this ‘pop, pop, pop’ — possibly 10 shots, don’t really know,” Liberal Party member John McKay told reporters outside.
“Suddenly the security guards come rushing down the hallways and usher us all out to the back of the parliament buildings,” he said, as lawmakers, staff and reporters scurried from the area.
Witnesses at the scene said they saw a man armed with a rifle running into parliament after shooting the guard at the war memorial.
Passers-by told reporters that a bearded man had gunned down the soldier and hijacked a passing vehicle to take him the short distance to Parliament Hill, on a bluff over the Ottawa River.
One witness, parliamentary aide Marc-Andre Viau, said he saw a man run past a caucus meeting, chased by police armed with rifles who yelled “take cover.”
That was followed by “10, 15, maybe 20 shots,” possibly from an automatic weapon, Viau said, adding: “I’m shaken.”
Police raced to seal off the parliament building and Harper’s office, pushing reporters and bystanders back and blocking roads.
Harper was attending a meeting with lawmakers in parliament at the time but was quickly evacuated to safety, his spokesman Jason MacDonald said.
The confusion had the city and the nation on edge, while stocks in Toronto tumbled more than 200 points.
Local media reported that the suspect, raised in Laval, Quebec, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Montreal had an extensive criminal record, including robbery and drug charges to which he pleaded guilty.
A chilling photo of Zehaf-Bibeau circulated in the Canadian media, showing the assailant with long dark hair and a scarf over the lower half of his face aiming a rifle straight ahead.
Police did not say when it was taken, but confirmed local reports that it was the gunman in the photo.
Harper had been scheduled to bestow honorary Canadian citizenship on Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Wednesday in Toronto. The ceremony was to be rescheduled, his office said.
Meanwhile, parliament was to reopen for lawmakers Thursday, but remain closed to the public.
– Jihadist sympathies –
In Canada’s southern neighbor the United States, President Barack Obama condemned the attack as “outrageous” after talking by telephone with Harper, the White House said.
“We don’t yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan, or whether this was an individual or a series of individuals,” Obama said.
Officials said US and Canadian air defenses were on heightened alert.
On Monday, 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau mowed down two soldiers, killing one of them, before being shot dead by police as he emerged from his wrecked car wielding a knife.
Couture-Rouleau was reportedly a supporter of the jihadist Islamic State group operating in Iraq and Syria, and on the same watch list as Zehaf-Bibeau.
Canadian authorities have warned they are tracking 90 suspects, and “intelligence has indicated an individual or group within Canada or abroad has the intent and capability to commit an act of terrorism.”