Canadian Parliament attacked by gunmen

CBC News reports Canada is on “heightened alert” – including a directive that Canadian soldiers should stop wearing their uniforms in public – after a shocking attack on Parliament Hill.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s events for the day have been canceled, including the one that many suspect triggered the attacks: “a ceremony to bestow honorary Canadian citizenship to Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani teenager and co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.”  Yousafzai is an advocate for womens’ rights – meaning such things as the right of young girls to get an education – who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her trouble.

Fox News chronicles the morning’s violence:

Multiple gunmen stormed the Canadian Parliament complex Wednesday, killing a soldier guarding the National War Memorial and spraying as many as 30 shots inside the government building in Ottawa in a brazen assault that left the nation’s capital on virtual lockdown just two days after a terror attack in Quebec, officials said.

The shots rang out just before 10 a.m., and were quickly followed by reports of “several shooting incidents in downtown Ottawa,” according to a tweet from police. The shooting at the government complex came after witnesses said they saw two men jump out of a Toyota Corolla and run toward the National War Memorial, where one opened fire on a soldier who later died. The gunmen then ran to the Parliament building, where witnesses later said they saw one gunman down near the library. Bernard Trottier, a Toronto-area MP, tweeted that the gunman inside Centre Block “has been shot and killed.??? The other was reportedly being sought.

Veteran Affairs Minister Julian Fantino told QMI Agency that Parliament???s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, shot one gunman dead.

???All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,??? Fantino said from inside Centre Block. ???He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.???

ABC News has an eyewitness account of the soldier’s murder:

On Wednesday, Tony Zobl, 35, said he witnessed the soldier being gunned down from his fourth-floor window directly above the National War Memorial, a 70-foot, arched granite cenotaph, or tomb, with bronze sculptures commemorating World War I.

“I looked out the window and saw a shooter, a man dressed all in black with a kerchief over his nose and mouth and something over his head as well, holding a rifle and shooting an honor guard in front of the cenotaph point-blank, twice,” Zobl told the Canadian Press news agency.

“The honor guard dropped to the ground, and the shooter kind of raised his arms in triumph holding the rifle.”

Zobl said the gunman then ran up the street toward Parliament Hill.

Another CBC report says the slain soldier “was a reservist serving in Hamilton from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada.”  Other members of the unit have been placed on communications lockdown:

The Argylls are an infantry unit of the Canadian Forces primary reserves within 31 Canadian Brigade Group. It is one of the largest army reserve units in the country with over 250 soldiers.

The soldiers who were guarding the National War Memorial are part of a ceremonial guard, and full-time and part-time soldiers are rotated through duty on an hourly or bi-hourly basis. They carry rifles that aren’t loaded.

It’s still unclear how many shooters there were – some reports say there were two others – or how much damage they did across Ottawa.  Reports of a simultaneous attack at nearby Rideau Centre are now being described as false by the authorities.

Also as yet unknown is whether this incident is linked to the attack on two Canadian soldiers by an alleged jihadist in Quebec two days ago, an incident Yahoo News reports was a contributing factor to the Canadian government raising its terror threat level.  There’s also been increased chatter among groups on the terrorist watch list, and a few weeks ago, the Canadians cracked down on a plot by “ISIS imitators” to attack civilian targets in Canada and the United States with small arms.

The assailant in Monday’s attack was identified as 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau, who was briefly detained at a Canadian airport last July when he sought to fly to Turkey, federal police said.

Police did not have enough evidence to charge him with seeking to join a terrorist group abroad and released him.

Couture-Rouleau was fatally shot by police after he struck two soldiers with his car in a Quebec parking lot — a scenario which had been depicted only last month in IS propaganda.

At a press conference, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the deliberate attack was “clearly linked to terrorist ideology.”

“I am horrified by what took place here,” he said. “This is a terrible act of violence against our country, against our military, against our values.”

[…] Couture-Rouleau smashed his car into the two soldiers in a supermarket parking lot before fleeing with police in pursuit.

He called 911 to tell emergency workers about the attack as it was happening.

Police said he then crashed his car into a roadside ditch and rolled it over. When he extricated himself from the wreckage brandishing a knife, officers shot him.

The police “were in touch with Couture-Rouleau’s imam and other community members to try to reach out to the man.”  A recent convert to Islam, his Facebook postings indicated “he was radicalized and that he wanted to leave the country to fight on behalf of an ideology,” according to a police spokeswoman.

It’s still early in a developing situation, and some of the early reporting has already been discredited, so everything broadcast on the situation should be taken with a bit of skepticism.  More information about the identity of the slain assailant should be available soon.

Update: The Globe and Mail reports that both the slain attacker and the soldier who was killed have been identified:

Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehef-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.

Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a ???high-risk traveller??? by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized ??? the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.

The soldier that was killed was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, according to his aunt. Cpl. Cirillo, who was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a regiment of Reserve Forces based in Hamilton, was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency, his aunt told The Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail reporter posted some footage from inside the Parliament building during Zehef-Bibeau’s assault:

58-year-old House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers is being hailed as a hero for halting Zehef-Bibeau’s rampage, though according to the CBC, police have not yet confirmed if he fired the shot that brought the attacker down.  Quite a few representatives and ministers took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to thank Vickers and his security force for saving their lives.


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