CANADA’S prime minister has said the shooting of a soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa is a reminder the country is “not immune” to terrorist attacks.
Ottawa police said the member of the Canadian Forces “succumbed to injuries” following a series of shooting incidents in the city yesterday morning.
The soldier was named locally as Corporal Nathan Cirillo, with his name trending on Twitter and thousands praising him on other social media.
Canadian officials identified the gunman who killed him as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who government sources said was a recent convert to Islam. He was shot dead, reportedly by parliament’s sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.
In his first address to the nation since the attack, prime minister Stephen Harper condemned it as a “ brutal attack” and said the country would continue to work with allies in the fight against extremist organisations.
“For the second time this week, there has been a brutal and violent act on our soil,” Mr Harper, who was evacuated from the parliament building at the time of the shooting, said.
“In the days to come we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had. This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.
“But let there be no misunderstanding, we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.
“In fact this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home. Just as it will strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organisations who brutalise those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores.
“They will have no safe haven.”
He added that a suspect in an earlier attack on Monday, when a man allegedly rammed his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring the other, was and “Isil (Islamic State)-inspired terrorist”.
David Cameron responded last night to the events on Twitter.
“I’m appalled by today’s attack in Ottawa. I offer my full support to @pmharper and the Canadian people as they deal with this incident,” the Prime Minister wrote.
MP Craig Scott wrote on Twitter: “MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs’ caucus rooms.”
It was unclear whether other gunmen remained at large, with police describing the incident as an “ongoing” operation with no-one currently in custody.
Police received a number of calls at 9.52am local time after the soldier was shot, with further gunfire then taking place inside Parliament Hill.
Officers said that, contrary to reports, no third incident occurred at the Rideau Centre shopping mall.
The force said in a statement yesterday: “The Ottawa Police Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) responded to reports of shooting incidents this morning in the downtown area.
“Police can now confirm that incidents occurred at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill.
“One shooting victim succumbed to injuries. He was a member of the Canadian Forces. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones.”
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.
A Facebook page was set up named Rest In Peace Cpl Nathan Cirillo, which has already been looked at by thousands.
One message, from Bob Rodkin, read: “RIP Nathan. Thank you for your service and the ultimate sacrifice. So tragic, so unnecessary. My prayers go out for you and to your family, friends and colleagues.”
Another message, from Olivia Marie, said: “RIP Nathan! Thank you for defending our country, your son is so proud of you. I miss you.”
Cabinet minister Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were fired while a meeting was taking place between Mr Harper and other MPs.
“I feared this day would come, and my prayers are with the fallen soldier,” he added.
Video filmed from inside the parliament building shows officers rushing down a large marble hallway with weapons drawn in front of them, before the sound of gunfire and shouting rings out.
The footage becomes shaky as the cameraman, believed to be a local reporter, rushes for cover behind a pillar.
People inside the parliament building scrambled down scaffolding to escape, witnesses said.
A photograph of chairs piled up against a door as a barricade was being heavily circulated on Twitter, apparently taken inside the meeting room in the parliament building where MPs earlier held their talks.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said he was “shocked and saddened” by the events.
“Ottawa police services are engaged with other law enforcement agencies at this time in pursuit of the criminal or criminals who have carried out this vicious and unwarranted attack,” he said in a statement.
Alain Merizier, a waiter in the parliament dining room, said he was on his way to work when he saw a gunman run from a car towards the parliament.
“I saw a car suddenly stop,” he told the BBC. “There was only one man in the car. He went out of the left side.
“He had a long gun and he ran away to the front and went inside the parliament. I heard one shot. I saw an officer running after him.”
Mr Merizier said the man had long dark hair and a small beard.
Vancouver South MP Wai Young said it had been “a difficult day”.
She said: “I am absolutely stunned because here in Canada we pride ourselves on being open, democratic and welcoming. To have this type of random terrorist attack happen in one of the safest places in Canada is quite shocking.”
The shootings came two days after a recent convert to Islam killed one Canadian soldier and injured another in a hit-and-run incident before being gunned down by police.
The Ottawa Hospital said all three patients admitted after being involved in the shooting had been discharged.