Gunman kills Canadian soldier in Ottawa, days after 'jihadist' shooting in Qebec
Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, was shot dead at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Wednesday by a man described as being short, overweight and wearing an 'Arabic scarf.' (AFP/File)
A gunman shot dead a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa today before firing dozens of shots inside the Parliament in a terrifying attack that left the nation's capital on lockdown.
After fatally shooting Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, just before 10am on Wednesday, gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, opened fire inside the Parliament and was shot dead by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms.The city's entire downtown area is under lockdown following the attack, which came just two days after a Canadian soldier was killed in Quebec by a man with jihadist sympathies.
Authorities initially said they believed 'two or three' gunmen were responsible for the attack, but at an afternoon press conference, Chief of Police Charles Bordeleau would not confirm whether or not they are still searching for other shooters.
'We're still in the process of clearing Parliament Hill,' he said. 'It is a slow and methodical process.'
The shooting spree began at 9.52am when witnesses reported seeing a gunman climb out of a car, grab a rifle, shoot the soldier in the abdomen and then run towards Parliament.
Corporal Cirillo was rushed to hospital but later succumbed to his injuries.
Cirillo, a fitness fanatic and animal lover with a young son, was a reservist serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Hamilton. Ottawa police then received a call at 9.54am that shots had been heard inside the Parliament, while journalists cowering inside said they heard dozens of rounds and could smell gunpowder in the halls.
A shootout unfolded and Zehaf-Bibeau was killed by Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, who worked for the RCMP for 29 years before joining the Parliament in 2006. (He is pictured by the Hill Times.)
'I am safe & profoundly grateful to Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our security forces for selfless act of keeping us safe,' said Julian Fantino, Canada's Minister of Veterans Affairs, on Twitter.
The Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for safeguarding the authority of the House of Commons and providing safety and security of the Parliament buildings and the people inside.
As gunfire erupted in the hallways, journalists and politicians scrambled for safety, while members in the Conservative Party caucus room blocked the door with a stack of chairs. A parliamentary guard was shot in the leg during the gunfight but is recovering in hospital, according to Globe and Mail reporter Josh Wingrove, who is inside the building.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Harper was safe after being evacuated from Parliament Hill. He is expected to make a statement about the attacks later today.
He had been scheduled to give Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, her Canadian citizenship today.
The government said there is not yet any evidence that Zehaf-Bibeau has any ties to violent Islamic extremism but noted that it is still early in the investigation.
An Ottawa Citizen reporter inside the Parliament building, Jordan Press, wrote on Twitter that a suspect was '5'9-5'10, overweight & wearing a dark jacket'. Witnesses also told the Citizen that they saw a man wearing an 'Arabic scarf' and carrying a long rifle, while others said the suspect looked South American. Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, told CBC that he saw a man running with a shotgun, wearing a scarf and blue jeans.
He said that the man jumped over a fence around Parliament Hill and forced someone out of their car, then drove to the front doors of the Parliament building and fired at least twice.
Reporter Jordan Press added that the car - a Toyota Corolla - was parked in front of the building with its engine still running.
A video shot by a Globe and Mail reporter showed RCMP officers moving through Parliament's main hall toward the Parliamentary library, as the hallway echoed with gunfire.
Other reporters inside the building described the panic in the hallways.
'Dozens of shots in parliament,' Josh Wingrove, a reporter for the Globe and Mail, tweeted just before 10am. 'I see a body on the ground outside the library of parliament.
He went on: 'I was in the west wing of the building and shooter appears to have entered through main door on south side, heading north along hallway.
'I heard dozens of gunshots and the smell of gunpowder is heavy in the hallways right now.'
He added: 'One security guard said that it appears one officer may have been shot but we have no way to confirm that.'
Speaking to CNN, Wingrove said it appeared Zehaf-Bibeau entered the front entrance that has 'many armed guards' but no metal detector'.
'If you flash your valid pass, they allow you to go in,' he said. 'This appears to be the entry point [of the gunman] based on witness accounts.'
The RMP advised people in downtown Ottawa to stay away from windows and off roofs as they responded to the incident. The University of Ottawa was also placed on lockdown. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the nation's thoughts and prayers are with Canada.
The doors to the Canadian Embassy in the U.S. are locked, while the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa has also been shuttered.