US & Canada

Ottawa shootings: Canada not intimidated says PM Harper

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Media captionFootage from the Globe and Mail shows a hail of bullets being fired inside the Canadian parliament building

Canada's prime minister has insisted his country will not be intimidated, after a gunman rampaged through parliament before being shot dead.

Stephen Harper described the attacker as a terrorist and promised to "redouble" anti-terror efforts.

The gunman, reportedly a Muslim convert named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, shot and killed a soldier at an Ottawa war memorial before entering parliament.

It came two days after another Muslim convert killed a soldier in Quebec.

Mr Harper described that earlier attack as a plot inspired by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

On Thursday the Queen - Canada's head of state - said she was "shocked and saddened" by the shootings.

Also, the mother of Zehaf-Bibeau told the Associated Press news agency she was crying for the victims of the shooting, not her son.

"Can you ever explain something like this?" Susan Bibeau said. "We are sorry."

Earlier this month, Canada announced plans to join the US-led campaign of air strikes against IS militants in Iraq.

However, there is no official confirmation that either of this week's attacks are directly linked to IS or the new military campaign.

The shooting suspect

Image copyright Other
Image caption Canadian media quoted police sources as confirming this as an image of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau
  • Named as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a petty criminal with a history of convictions for minor drug offences and theft
  • Officials believe he recently converted to Islam; a friend he met at a mosque described him as unstable
  • Mother reported to be an immigration official, his father a Libyan who once ran a cafe in Montreal

The suspect: A trail of petty crime

In a televised address late on Wednesday, Mr Harper said: "We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.

"In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts... to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe."

Mr Harper stressed that the perpetrators "will have no safe haven" in Canada, but admitted the attacks showed that the country was "not immune to terrorist attacks".

Mr Harper had been meeting MPs at the time of the shooting, but was safely evacuated.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The shooting began at the war memorial
Image copyright AP
Image caption Police quickly moved in to seal off the area around the parliament building
Image copyright AP
Image caption Reporters, politicians and staff barricaded themselves into chambers in the parliament building

The attack began on Wednesday morning, as two soldiers guarding the memorial came under fire from a man carrying a rifle.

One soldier, Cpl Nathan Cirillo, died of his injuries. Three other people were treated in hospital and released by evening.

Minutes after the attack at the memorial, dozens of shots were fired inside the parliament building.

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Media captionThe 24 hours that followed the attack left Canada in a state of shock
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Media captionEyewitness Alain Merizier: "You don't have time to be afraid, just surprised"

The gunman was shot dead by Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, 58.

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Media captionSergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers' brother: "We're very, very proud of him"

"MPs and [Parliament] Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms," New Democrat MP Craig Scott tweeted.

Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, had apparently been designated a high-risk traveller and had his passport taken away because of suspected jihadist sympathies.

A Twitter user who posted an image purporting to show Zehaf-Bibeau said it had come from an IS-linked account.

Extremism in Canada

  • Canadian Momin Khawaja involved in al-Qaeda-inspired plot to strike British targets with fertiliser bombs in 2004; jailed in 2009 in the first conviction under Canada's 2008 anti-terror law
  • So-called "Toronto 18" planned in 2006 to detonate truck bombs around Toronto and take hostages including the prime minister in al-Qaeda-inspired plot; 11 convicted of terror-related offences
  • Hiva Alizadeh jailed in September 2014 for attempting to organise a militant jihadist cell in Ottawa
  • Tunisian Chiheb Esseghaier and Palestinian Raed Jaser charged in 2013 over a plot to derail a Toronto-New York train, with alleged support from an Iran-based al-Qaeda cell; both awaiting trial

Zehaf-Bibeau had a police record for petty crime, including possession of drugs and robbery.

In his evening address, Mr Harper described him as a terrorist.

"In the days to come we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had," Mr Harper said.

Parliamentary official who stopped the gunman

Image copyright Reuters
  • Witnesses identified the parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, as the man who shot dead the attacker
  • Mr Vickers, 58, took up his role in 2006 after 29 years in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • He last made headlines in 2011 when he supported the right of Sikhs to wear ceremonial daggers in the House of Commons

Tweets hail 'hero' Vickers

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Media captionThe BBC's Samira Hussain says officials are determined that it will be "business as usual" in the city
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Media captionJohn McKay MP: ''I hear this pop, pop, pop''

A wide area in central Ottawa was then sealed off amid reports that other gunmen may have been at large. However, on Thursday police said they were satisfied there had been only one attacker.

Some parliamentary staff, politicians and journalists were forced to remain barricaded inside the building for several hours.

Parliament Hill is still closed to the public, but MPs are expected to return to work at 10:00 (14:00 GMT).

In a telephone conversation with Mr Harper, US President Barack Obama condemned the attacks.

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