Thousands mourn at funeral of Canadian soldier killed in Ottawa

John Kerry says killing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo was clearly a ‘terrorist attack’

Thousands of mourners packed a church and lined the streets in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada today for the funeral of the soldier shot dead in last week's attack on the nation's seat of government.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo (24) was one of two soldiers killed in a pair of attacks last week that police said were carried out independently by radical recent converts to Islam. The assaults took place as Canada's military was stepping up its involvement in air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper told mourners that Cirillo had inspired and united Canadians. He choked back tears in a rare public display of emotion when addressing Cirillo's five-year-old son.

"May time ease the searing pain of today. And may his son, young Marcus Daniel Cirillo, some day find comfort in the fact that our entire country looks up to his dad with pride, with gratitude with deep abiding respect," Mr Harper said.

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The killings shook Canadians and prompted a debate on how the nation’s open culture, and particularly the low-key security in its capital city of Ottawa, may need to change. Security services have warned that citizens who adopt extremist views and take up arms against the state pose a “serious” threat.

Mr Cirillo was standing an unarmed, ceremonial watch at the nation’s war memorial in Ottawa on October 22nd when he was shot dead by a man described as troubled and drug addicted. His attacker then charged into the Parliament building and exchanged fire with security officers not far from a room where Mr Harper was meeting with fellow Conservative lawmakers.

Mr Cirillo's is the first of two funerals for soldiers slain on Canadian soil, to be followed by a service on Saturday in Longueuil, Quebec, for Patrice Vincent, a 53-year-old warrant officer who was killed on October 20th near Montreal, when a man ran over him and a fellow soldier with his car.

He was buried in the Field of Honor at Woodland Cemetery in Hamilton. A group of Canadians launched a fund for the families of Cirillo and Vincent, StandOnGuardFund.com, that has so far raised C$550,000 (€386,000).

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Cirillo’s killer, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (32), made a video of himself before his attack saying he was motivated by his opposition to Canadian foreign policy. The RCMP said the video also showed he had religious motives.

Officials have also described Vincent's killer, 25-year-old Martin Rouleau, as a man motivated by radical beliefs.

Both attackers were shot dead by security services.

Following Cirillo's funeral, Mr Harper was to meet with US secretary of state John Kerry, who traveled to Ottawa to express his condolences.

At a press conference, Mr Kerry said the attack was clearly a terrorist attack. "President Obama, the State Department and our entire administration pledge to work even more closely with your leaders at every level in order to deter and prevent terrorist attacks," he said.

Reuters