OTTAWA -- A masked gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Canada's war memorial yesterday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms. Canada's prime minister called it the country's second terrorist attack in three days.
"We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated," Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in an address to the nation.
Canada was already on heightened alert because of a deadly hit-and-run earlier in the week against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an "ISIL-inspired terrorist." ISIL, or Islamic State, has called for reprisals against Canada and other Western countries that have joined the U.S.-led air campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
Officials identified the gunman as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, but gave no immediate details on his background. Canadian police would not speculate on a motive for the shootings.
The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper, said the government recently seized Zehaf-Bibeau's passport as a "high-risk traveler" -- the same action that had been taken with Martin Rouleau-Couture, who was shot dead by police in Quebec on Monday after running down two Canadian soldiers with his car, one fatally.
Zehaf-Bibeau was a Canadian citizen who had converted to Islam, a U.S. official told Bloomberg News. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said court documents showed he had a criminal record for drug possession and robbery.
Police said in the initial hours after the shootings that as many as two other gunmen may have taken part. By nightfall, it appeared likelier that Zehaf-Bibaeau was the only shooter, but searches continued downtown. Police lifted lockdowns, in some buildings only temporarily, to allow people who had sheltered in place for hours to go home.
Witnesses said the soldier posted at the National War Memorial, identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, of Hamilton, Ontario, was gunned down at point-blank range just before 10 a.m. by a man carrying a rifle and dressed all in black, his face half-covered in a scarf. The gunman appeared to raise his arms in triumph.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. had video of the gunman going to a car with his weapon after killing Cirillo. The car was later spotted parked in front of Parliament Hill, just down the block.
As dozens of shots rang out through the halls of Parliament, people fled the complex by scrambling down scaffolding erected for renovations. Others took cover inside and barricaded doors with chairs as police with rifles and body armor took up positions outside and cordoned off nearby streets.
On Twitter, Canada's justice minister and other government officials credited sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, 58, with shooting the attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms. Vickers heads security and also serves a ceremonial role at the House of Commons, carrying a scepter and wearing rich green robes, white gloves and a tall imperial hat.
At least two other people were reported injured. They were listed in stable condition.
In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the shootings as "outrageous" and said: "We have to remain vigilant." In a telephone call with Harper, he also offered U.S. help and reassurance to Canada, an ally in the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State group.
Canada had raised its domestic terror threat level from low to medium Tuesday because of what it called "an increase in general chatter from radical Islamist organizations."