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Ottawa shootings: Canada to toughen terror laws

2014-10-23 21:49:01

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed to strengthen the nation's terror laws one day after a gunman rampaged through parliament.

The leader said plans would be expedited to give more powers to surveillance and security agencies.

On Wednesday, a reported Muslim convert shot a soldier at an Ottawa war memorial before attacking parliament.

He was killed by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who was greeted to a standing ovation on Thursday for his efforts.

It was the second attack on Canada's military in three days.

Standing to address the MPs to warm applause, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first words were: "I know we will always stand together."

The objective of the attacks was to instil fear and panic in Canada, he said.

But he vowed to expedite security measures to toughen powers of surveillance and detention.

"They need to be much strengthened, and I assure you, Mr Speaker, that work which is already under way will be expedited," Mr Harper said.

Mr Harper was hugged by Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair

Cpl Nathan Cirillo died of his injuries

"We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic," he added.

On Monday, another soldier was killed in a hit-and-run in the province of Quebec.

Mr Harper described the perpetrator, who was shot dead, as an "ISIL-inspired terrorist".

Canada recently announced plans to join the US-led campaign of air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq but no link to IS or the new military campaign has been confirmed by police investigating the latest attack.

At the scene: Jon Kelly, BBC News, Ottawa

Rows of squad cars blocked the National War Memorial, where a gunman shot and killed a soldier before rampaging through the parliament building.

By the standards of most western cities, these security measures appeared restrained in the wake of a deadly attack.

But in a nation where the openness of political institutions is a deeply-cherished article of faith, they were a sign that something was out of the ordinary.

Can Canada preserve its openness?

The gunman was reportedly a Muslim convert named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who was on a Canadian watchlist.

His mother Susan Bibeau earlier told the Associated Press news agency she is crying for the victims of the shooting, not her son.

"[He] was lost and did not fit in," she later wrote in a statement. "I his mother spoke with him last week over lunch, I had not seen him for over five years before that."

No words could express her sadness, she added. "We also wish to apologise for all the pain, fright and chaos [Zehaf-Bibeau] created. We have no explanation to offer."

The shooting suspect

Canadian media quoted police sources as confirming this as an image of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

  • Named as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a petty criminal with a history of convictions for minor drug offences and theft
  • Officials believe he recently converted to Islam; a friend he met at a mosque described him as unstable
  • His mother is thought to be an immigration official, his father a Libyan who once ran a cafe in Montreal

The suspect: A trail of petty crime

The heart of Canada's capital city had been in lockdown after the attack as police combed the streets looking for another gunman.

But police said on Thursday that they believed there was only one assailant.

The attack began on Wednesday morning, as two soldiers guarding the memorial came under fire from a man carrying a rifle.

One soldier, Cpl Nathan Cirillo, died of his injuries. Three other people were treated in hospital and released by evening.

Minutes after the attack at the memorial, dozens of shots were fired inside the parliament building.

Footage from the Globe and Mail shows a hail of bullets being fired inside the Canadian parliament building

The gunman was shot dead by Mr Vickers, 58, whom MPs applauded for several minutes on Thursday when parliament reopened.

He said he was "very touched by the attention".

"During extraordinary circumstances, security personnel demonstrated professionalism and courage. I am grateful and proud to be part of this team."

Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers has been credited with halting the attack

A floral memorial at the army base in Hamilton, where Cpl Nathan Cirillo was from

Police quickly moved in to seal off the area around the parliament building


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