White House Trying to Determine If Canada Attack was Terrorism
The White House said it's "in close touch" with Canadian counterparts after today's deadly shooting at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and at parliament.
Most of the member of the House of Commons and the Senate were on Parliament Hill for caucus day. The buildings went into lockdown and were slowly being cleared as authorities tried to determine if there were any more shooters.
The attack came two days after two Canadian Armed Forces members from Canadian Forces Base Saint-Jean Garrison were run down in a car driven by, in the words of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "a man who, according to our national security services, had become radicalized."
Harper was scheduled to host a Q&A session today at a school in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who lives under constant threat from the Taliban. He was also going to grant honorary Canadian citizenship to the Pakistani teen.
President Obama called Harper today to "express the American people’s solidarity with Canada" in both Monday's attack and today's attack.
"President Obama condemned these outrageous attacks, and reaffirmed the close friendship and alliance between our people," said a White House readout of the phone call. "The president offered any assistance Canada needed in responding to these attacks. Prime Minister Harper thanked the president and the two leaders discussed the assault and agreed to continue coordination between our governments moving forward."
In the latest issue of its magazine Dabiq, ISIS faulted "crusader" media for making lone wolf attacks "appear to be random killings" and encouraged attacks on citizens from “crusader” countries.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be," stated the magazine article. "Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling.”
The attacks also came as al-Qaeda released a new 117-page slick English-language magazine, Resurgence, which is largely geared toward its new southeast Asia chapter.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was briefed earlier today in the Oval Office by his top homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco.
"The details about the nature of this event are still sketchy, which is not unusual in a chaotic situation like this one," Earnest said.
"Canada is one of the closest friends and allies of the United States. And from issues ranging from the strength of our NATO alliance to the Ebola response to dealing with ISIL, there's a strong partnership and friendship and alliance between the United States and Canada. The United States strongly values that relationship, and that relationship makes the citizens of this country safer."
Earnest said he was "not in a position to render a judgment... at this point" on whether Canada was the victim of a terrorist attack.
"There's no conclusion like that that I'm able to share with you at this point, but we're obviously in the very early stages of determining what exactly happened here. And as I mentioned, a number of U.S. officials in this government have been in touch with their Canadian counterparts to offer some assistance as they respond to and deal with this tragic situation," he said, adding he was "not aware" of any change to the threat status in the U.S.
"The United States has been in touch with Canadian counterparts over the last several months to talk about this issue of countering violent extremism and trying to deter foreign fighters who could be radicalized by ISIL. ISIL has demonstrated a capacity to use social media and other aspects of modern technology to try to radicalize citizens in other countries," Earnest continued.
"…The circumstances around today's tragic events in Canada are still unknown, but that is a concern that the United States has been focused on for quite some time. We've been talking to other countries about steps that we can take in coordination to mitigate that threat, and Canada is one of the countries that has been robustly engaged in those efforts."
Though Capitol Police are said to be monitoring the developments in Canada, U.S. lawmakers are out of town until after midterm elections.
The State Department said the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa was under lockdown and "restricting the movement of embassy personnel as a precautionary measure."
Secretary of State John Kerry was briefed on the attack while flying, spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
When asked if there was a tie to the Islamic State, Harf interjected, "I don’t even want to speculate. It’s way too early."
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN "there's been chatter for some time."
"ISIS encouraging people to undertake self-radicalized attacks, low-tech or high-tech, they don't care as long as western targets are gone after. We don't know yet... whether this was a terrorist-inspired attack. But if it was, it's certainly consistent with what ISIS has been urging," Schiff said. "So I think FBI taking some prudent steps today to raise alert among the FBI offices and make sure either from a copycat attack perspective or because of this chatter it's a very prudent step."
"...Intelligence is really our best defense against something like this, but even intel, obviously, isn't perfect."
UPDATE 5:30 p.m. EST: An ISIS-associated account tweeted a purported photo of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, reportedly the shooter killed by parliament Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers. It's not a new account and tweets an extensive amount of jihadi news, yet didn't elaborate when pressed for more information about the photo -- particularly who took it. The account was suspended minutes after PJM took this screenshot.
The photo is not verified, yet does not conflict with witness accounts:
An Ottawa Citizen reporter inside the Parliament building, Jordan Press, wrote on Twitter that a suspect was '5'9-5'10, overweight & wearing a dark jacket'.
Witnesses also told the Citizen that they saw a man wearing an 'Arabic scarf' and carrying a long rifle, while others said the suspect looked South American.
Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, told CBC that he saw a man running with a shotgun, wearing a scarf and blue jeans.
...Those who saw the shooter at the War Memorial say that he had dark hair, a dark complexion and a scarf on his head and was armed with a rifle.