Canada's PM says shooting rampage was terrorism

2014-10-23 07:26
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a televised address to the nation in Ottawa. (APTN, AP)

Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a televised address to the nation in Ottawa. (APTN, AP)

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Ottawa - A masked gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Canada's war memorial on Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms. Canada's prime minister called it the country's second terrorist attack in three days.

"We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated", Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in an address to the nation.

Unfolding just before 10:00, while lawmakers were meeting in caucus rooms, the assault rocked Parliament over and over with the boom of gunfire, led MPs to barricade doors with chairs and sent people streaming from the building in fear. Harper was addressing a caucus when the attack began outside the door, but he safely escaped.

Investigators offered little information about the gunman, identified as 32-year-old petty criminal Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. But Harper said: "In the days to come we will learn about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had."

Canada was already on alert at the time because of a deadly hit-and-run assault on Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an "ISIS-inspired terrorist." ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has called for reprisals against Canada and other Western countries that have joined the US-led air campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

Witnesses said the soldier posted at the National War Memorial, identified as Captain Nathan Cirillo, was gunned down at point-blank range by a man carrying a rifle and dressed all in black, his face half-covered with a scarf. The gunman appeared to raise his arms in triumph, and then entered Parliament, a few hundred yards away, where dozens of shots soon rang out, according to witnesses.

People fled the complex by scrambling down scaffolding erected for renovations, while others took cover inside as police with rifles and body armour took up positions outside and cordoned off the normally bustling streets around Parliament.

On Twitter, Canada's justice minister and other government officials credited 58-year-old sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers with shooting the attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms. Vickers serves a largely ceremonial role at the House of Commons, carrying a sceptre and wearing rich green robes, white gloves and a tall imperial hat.

At least three people were treated for minor injuries.

In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the shootings as "outrageous" and said: "We have to remain vigilant." The US Embassy in Ottawa was locked down as a precaution, and security was tightened at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington.

Harper vowed that the attacks will "lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts" to keep the country safe and work with Canada's allies to fight terrorists.

Police said in the initial hours that as many as two other gunmen may have taken part in the attacks. But by late in the evening, the cordon around Parliament was lifted and police said there was no longer any threat to the public in the area.

Read more on:    isis  |  stephen harper  |  canada  |  security

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