Soldier and gunman dead after dramatic shootings in Ottawa

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau under investigation as possible suspect after attack on parliament

More tense images from inside Canada's Parliament Hill shows police scrambling after shots were fired. Video: Reuters

 

Canada’s capital was jolted today by the fatal shooting of a soldier and an attack on the parliament building in which gunshots were fired outside a room where prime minister Stephen Harper was speaking.

The gunman in the parliament building was shot dead, and Mr Harper was safely removed. Canadian police said they could not “at this point” confirm whether the man who shot dead the soldier, who was guarding the National War Memorial in central Ottawa, was the same person who shortly afterwards attacked the nearby parliament building.

Witnesses said at least 30 shots were fired after a gunman entered the parliament building and was pursued by police. The assault came very near the room where Mr Harper was meeting with members of his Conservative party, a government minister said.

Canadian police were investigating a man named as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as a possible suspect in the shootings, a source familiar with the matter said. Two US officials said US agencies had been advised the suspect was a Canadian convert to Islam.

‘We all scattered’ “PM [Harper] was addressing caucus, then a huge boom, followed by rat-a-tat shots. We all scattered. It was clearly right outside our caucus door,” treasury board minister Tony Clement said.

A spokesman for Mr Harper said: “While the prime minister stated that facts are still being gathered, he condemned this despicable attack.”

Minutes before the shooting there, a soldier had been shot and fatally wounded at the nearby National War Memorial. The soldier was named locally as Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

But the incidents, shocking in Canada’s normally tranquil capital, were not over.

Ottawa police were searching for more suspects near the war memorial and on nearby Parliament Hill, a police spokesman said. Residents were warned to stay away from downtown Ottawa.

Dramatic video footage posted by the Globe and Mail newspaper showed police with guns drawn inside the main parliament building. At least a dozen loud bangs can be heard on the clip, echoing through the hall.

Veterans affairs minister Julian Fantino, a former policeman, told the Toronto Sun that parliament’s head of security, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, shot dead a suspected gunman. “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,” Mr Fantino said.

Guard wounded Canadian cabinet minister Jason Kenney said a guard in parliament buildings had also been wounded in the incident.

It was unclear whether there was any connection to an attack on Monday when an Islamic convert ran down two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one, near Montreal, before being shot dead by police in the first fatal attack on Canadian soil tied to Islamic militants.

Canada announced this month it was joining the battle against Islamic State fighters who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

As the drama in Ottawa unfolded, police in bulletproof vests and carrying automatic rifles flooded the streets near parliament. Some took cover behind vehicles and shouted to people to clear the area, saying: “We do not have the suspect in custody. You are in danger here.”

In Washington, a White House official said US president Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation. He said the US had offered assistance to Canada. – (Reuters)