Frustration over passport delay could have motivated Canadian gunman

Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau may have lashed out in frustration over delays in obtaining a passport to the Middle East.

The Canadian citizen seemed lost, “did not fit in”, had drug problems, and went more than five years without seeing his mother.

In recent weeks the Muslim, whose father was from Libya, had been living at a homeless shelter and talked about wanting to go to Libya or Syria, but became agitated when he could not get a passport.

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Now a portrait of the killer has begun to emerge, along with a possible explanation for what triggered the deadly attack on Canada’s seat of government by 32-year-old Zehaf-Bibeau.

Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said: “I think the passport figured prominently in his motives. I’m not inside his head, but I think it was central to what was driving him.”

In what prime minister Stephen Harper called a terrorist attack, Zehaf-Bibeau shot dead Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, who was guarding Canada’s national war memorial on Wednesday, then stormed the parliament building, where he was gunned down by security staff.

Zehaf-Bibeau was armed with what police said was a lever-action Winchester rifle, an old fashioned, relatively slow-firing weapon.

The attack was the second deadly assault on Canadian soldiers in three days and forced the country to confront the danger of radicalised citizens in its midst.