APTN National News
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper said more information would surface in the coming days about the “terrorist” who was gunned down inside Parliament Hill’s Centre Block building Wednesday morning shortly after a soldier was shot and killed at the nearby National War Memorial, sending Ottawa’s downtown core into lock-down as tactical units swept through the streets and searched buildings.
In an address to the national Wednesday evening, Harper said the morning’s events were a “grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”
Harper also hinted that the gunman, widely identified as Michael Zehaf Bibeau, 32, may have had accomplices in his attack.
“Attacks on our security personnel and our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all,” said Harper. “We will not be intimidated, Canada will never be intimidated.”
Harper linked the attack to Canada’s military mission in Iraq to battle ISIS militants attempting to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region. ISIS fighters currently control a swath of territory between Syria and Iraq. Canada is sending CF-18 fighter jets to Iraq and is also currently supplying weapons to the Kurds battling ISIS.
“This will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts and those of our security agencies to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe at home,” said Harper. “Just as it will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against terror organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores.”
The prime minister also paid tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who was gunned down at about 9:52 a.m. while he stood in ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial.
“Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was killed today, murdered in cold blood as he provided a ceremonial honour guard at Canada’s National War Memorial, that sacred place that pays tribute to those that gave their lives so we can live in a free and democratic and safe society,” said Harper.
The prime minister provided no new details on the attack.
NDP Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair spoke after Harper.
“(The attack) was intended to make us more fearful, but it has failed,” said Mulcair. “Today’s events have succeeded in drawing us closer and making us stronger.”
The RCMP and the Ottawa Police refused to confirm Zehaf Bibeau’s name as the gunman. It has emerged, however, that Zehaf Bibeau has a criminal record in British Columbia and Quebec. He also lived in Vancouver, Montreal and Aylmer, Que., which is near Ottawa.
Zehaf Bibeau was shot dead in a hail of bullets near Centre Block’s Hall of Honour.
Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons, was involved in killing the gunman during an exchange of fire, MPs said. Journalist Tom Korski was inside Centre Block when shooting broke out and said he heard over 30 shots. A Globe and Mail reporter captured part of the scene on video that depicted security personnel moving toward the Library of Parliament as a number of gunshots rang out.
A surreal scene unfolded across the capital city’s downtown as Ottawa Police and RCMP tactical units swept through the streets and buildings in and around the Parliament Hill precinct following an attack at the War Memorial and in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block building. Authorities kept downtown in lock-down deep into the evening as officers continued searching for a possible second gunman. At one point, officers with guns drawn were seen running into a building housing the Israeli embassy as police pushed media and bystanders away from the area. Similar scenes were repeated throughout the morning and afternoon, as police officers shouted that a gunman was on the loose.
Police appeared to be uncertain during the day about whether there were multiple shooters loose in the downtown core. Police on several occasions widened the security around Parliament Hill by several blocks saying a shooter was on the loose. Police officers on the scene told separate APTN National News reporters that a gunman had reached the roof of a building. Late Wednesday, police lifted the downtown lock-down, but kept restrictions on Parliament Hill.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said officers received multiple 911 calls shortly after 9:52 a.m. Bordelau said a suspected gunman was shot and killed, but he wouldn’t confirm whether it was the same individual who killed the Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial.
“This is an ongoing operation,” said Bordeleau, during a press conference at the RCMP National Division headquarters.
RCMP National Division commanding officer and Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said the attack caught authorities by “surprise.”
Ottawa Police said earlier no one had been taken into custody.
The Ottawa Police is leading the investigation of the shootings outside the Parliament Hill precinct, while the RCMP is handling the investigation on the Hill.
Bordeleau would not confirm the sequence of events or details around the shootings.
A witness at the War Memorial told APTN National News he heard four shots fired by a man with long, loose black hair, dark skin, wearing a coat and dark pants.
“He took off with a shotgun…it was pretty intense,” said witness Chuck Bromley. “I heard the first shot, looked over and realized what was going on and took cover. I looked again, the third shot, and a fourth shot and he just took off…I saw him take off toward the Parliament buildings with a shotgun.”
It appears the soldier was shot in the chest, and paramedics could be seen performing C.P.R. on him before he was taken away by ambulance.
Another bystander managed to get a photo of the gunman and police took the individual’s camera.
After the War Memorial shooting, the gunman reportedly ran towards Parliament Hill and a witness claimed he the suspect drop a cell phone, which was picked up by an onlooker and eventually turned over to the police.
Another witness said a man drove up to the Centre Block in a black vehicle, got out carrying a rifle and ran inside.
Construction worker Scott Walsh, 21, was in a manhole in front of Parliament Hill when he heard the shots. When he came out he saw a man with a double-barreled shotgun run past and hijack a vehicle on Parliament Hill and head towards Centre Block.
“He peeled off and went around the loop to the back left of (Centre Block),” said Walsh. “It was intense. I didn’t think it was real.”
Walsh said he hit the ground and described the man as sort of dark skinned with long black hair with a scarf around his face.
Inside Centre Block, MPs and Parliament Hill staff are describing a chaotic scene. Newfoundland MP Gerry Byrne says he heard nearly a dozen shots fired inside Centre Block which houses MPs offices, the Senate and the House of Commons chambers.
Centre Block was busy with each party holding their caucus meetings at the time.
The prime minister was on the Hill in a room adjacent to the shooting during a Conservative caucus meeting, but was rushed away to a secure location . NDP MPs were gathered in the room across the Hall when shots rang out.
Canada’s elite military unit, JTF-2, was also on scene.
-with files from The Canadian Press