Speaking for the first time since a gunman attacked parliament earlier today, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the week’s multiple assaults “a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, a reservist serving in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was shot and killed while guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Minutes later, a gunman opened fire inside the halls of parliament before he was shot to death by House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vicker.
The CBC reported that police confirmed a photo tweeted by an ISIS-associated account does depict gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. The Twitter account was suspended soon after the photo was posted.
His mother, Susan Bibeau, is deputy chairperson of the immigration division at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. His father is reportedly Libyan.
The Canada-born shooter was raised near Montreal and had brushes with the law on drug charges, robbery and making threats. Reuters cited U.S. officials saying Zehaf-Bibeau was a recent convert to Islam, and the Globe and Mail said his passport had been taken away by the Canadian government after he was designated a “high-risk traveler.”
Addressing the nation, Harper noted that “for the second time this week, there has been a brutal and violent attack on our soil.”
On Monday, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run over and killed “by an ISIL-inspired terrorist”: Martin “Ahmad” Rouleau.
“Fellow Canadians, in the days to come, we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had,” Harper said of Zehaf-Bibeau. “…We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governance are by their very nature, attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all.”
“But let there be no misunderstanding: We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated,” the prime minister continued. “In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts and those of our national security agencies to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home, just as it will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores. They will have no safe haven.”
“While today has been without question a difficult day, I have no doubt Canadians will pull together with the kind of firm solidarity that has seen our country through many challenges.”
President Obama called Harper earlier in the day, and the White House said it wouldn’t jump to conclusions on the motive behind the attack.
At a media availability when he sat down with new Ebola czar Ron Klain in the Oval Office today, Obama said, “Obviously, the situation there is tragic.”
“We don’t yet have all the information about what motivated the shooting. We don’t yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan or whether this was an individual or series of individuals who decided to take these actions,” he said. “But it emphasizes the degree to which we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism.”
Obama added that the U.S. and Canada are “entirely in sync” when it comes to “dealing with terrorist activity.”
“You know, every single day, we have a whole lot of really smart, really dedicated, really hardworking people, including a couple in this room, who are monitoring risks and making sure that we’re doing everything we need to do to protect the American people,” he said.
“And they don’t get a lot of fanfare. They don’t get a lot of attention. There are a lot of possible threats that are foiled or disrupted that don’t always get reported on.”
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on the attacks: “The United States has faced this kind of violence firsthand on our own soil, and we grieve with Canada, seared by the memory of our own painful experiences.”
“I spoke tonight with Canadian Foreign Minister Baird to express our deepest condolences on this tragic day, and to pledge the full support of the United States to Canada as it works to determine the facts and to hold those accountable responsible,” Kerry said, adding the two countries would continue to work “together to counter violent extremism in North America and elsewhere around the world.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he was “deeply troubled” by the attack.
“Even though many facts surrounding today’s attack remain unknown, it’s clear that those who cherish free and open societies must be constantly vigilant,” Royce said. “The U.S. and Canada must increase our already substantial counterterrorism cooperation.”