The attack at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Wednesday that killed Nathan Cirillo, followed by a burst of gunfire minutes later that terrorized the Parliament, was the second attack in Canada this week.
On October 20, a man Canadian authorities said was “radicalized,” ran over two soldiers in Quebec, killing one of them; it is being investigated as a potential terrorist attack. Police later killed the man. Both these incidents left Canada baffled.
Sources identified the Wednesday gunman as Michael Joseph Hall, 32, a convert to Islam who was using the name Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. He was confirmed dead. The victim was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of Hamilton, Ontario, a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, one of Canada’s largest reserve units.
Few other details of either man were known, and confusion continued to grip Canada’s capital well into the evening. As members of Parliament remained locked down on Parliament Hill 8½ hours later, police couldn’t say whether anyone was still on the loose or what the motive might have been.
“In the days to come, we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had, but this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere in the world,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
Nevertheless there is no immediate indication that the Monday and Wednesday incidents are related, despite the fact that the passports for the men in both attacks had been confiscated beforehand.
Witness accounts indicated the man who shot dead the soldier guarding the National War Memorial in central Ottawa, went on to attack the parliament building minutes later. Canadian police said, however, they could not “at this point” confirm it was the same person.
Before the two attacks in Canada, there was already concern about jihadist efforts in the nation. The U.S. heightened security at the Ottawa embassy as well as another consulate in the country after jihadist chatter indicated an attack could be in the works, according to officials.
Ottawa has a reputation as an orderly, quiet government town of about one million people where violent crime — never mind gunplay — is rare. Security here, as in much of Canada, is minimal at many public buildings. Until recently, most guards at parliament were unarmed.
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