TERROR ROCKS CANADIAN CAPITAL AS GUNMEN OPEN FIRE…SOLDIER DEAD
OTTAWA, Canada | DMN — Canada’s Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot and killed a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block nearby. MPs and other witnesses reported 30 to 50 shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, according to MPs’ accounts. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the Hill at the time of the shooting, but was safely taken away. Harper will make an address to the country later this evening. Ottawa police confirmed early Wednesday afternoon that the soldier died from his injuries. “One shooting victim succumbed to injuries. He was a member of the Canadian Forces,” a release said.
Police are not releasing the soldier’s name until next of kin are notified. CBC News has confirmed the soldier is a reservist from Hamilton. Police also confirmed the death of a “male suspect” and added “there is no one in custody at this time.” Later in a news conference, police and military officials confirmed the incident is not over, saying people in the downtown core should remain vigilant and stay inside. “This is a dynamic and unfolding situation,” said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, commanding officer of the national division. Michaud also suggested that police had no forewarning of the attack, saying “it caught us by surprise.” He added that it’s too soon to say whether the dead gunman was already known to security officials.
Michaud added that police have maintained a “medium” level of security of Parliament for the past number of years, and that had not changed in recent days. Police also would not say whether the gunman was a Canadian citizen or whether police had retrieved the weapon. Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau asked witnesses to the incidents to come forward. Ottawa Civic Hospital confirmed three people were taken to hospital, two of them with non-life-threatening injuries. One of those injured, with a gunshot wound, is a parliamentary guard. Despite earlier reports of shots fired near the Rideau Centre shopping mall east of Parliament Hill, police later said “no incident occurred near the Rideau Centre.”
Alain Merisier, who works at the cafeteria in one of the Parliament Buildings, told CBC News that he saw a man in a car at the Centre Block with a long gun. Cellphone video shot by a Globe and Mail reporter showed a chaotic scene in the elegant hallway leading from the front doors of Parliament’s Centre Block to the Library of Parliament during the attack. A sustained volley of shots was fired. Startled security personnel and political staff scrambled to take cover in the limestone alcoves as bullets flew.
In the minutes after the shooting on Parliament Hill, MPs and parliamentary staff began tweeting and telling reporters that it was Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers who shot the gunman. The tweets included:
- NDP MP Craig Scott: “MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs’ caucus rooms.”
- Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, former head of the Ontario Provincial Police and ex-Toronto chief of police: “I am safe & profoundly grateful to Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our security forces for selfless act of keeping us safe.”
- Justice Minister Peter MacKay: “Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our Cdn security forces. True heroes.”
Cabinet ministers, MPs and journalists in the buildings housing the House of Commons and Senate were in lockdown as police tracked the gunman. Sources tell CBC News that Harper was on the Hill at the time, and was extracted safely from the area by security. Opposition NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were also reported safe. In a statement released earlier in the day by Harper’s office, he said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were attacked.” His office released a photo of the prime minister being briefed away from Parliament Hill by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Harper’s spokesman Carl Vallée said on Twitter that Harper also spoke briefly to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday afternoon. Harper also spoke with Mulcair and Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s Office said. Earlier, police sealed off the area around the National War Memorial while the injured soldier was given emergency medical aid. He was later put into an ambulance. “We were waiting there for a city tour and suddenly I heard four shots,” said Jan Lugtenborg, a tourist visiting downtown Ottawa from Holland. “Suddenly I saw a small guy with long black hair … with a long rifle, and he ran away after the shots, across streets in the direction of ParliamentHill,” he said.
Raivo Nommick, another bystander, said “all of a sudden I just heard a shot, turned around and there was a guy with a rifle …. and just pow pow. “Then I saw one of the other Armed Forces guys just running. He barrelled over, just ran right over. The other guy just dropped. I looked back and just dived underneath and immediately called 911.” The National War Memorial stands in Confederation Square in the heart of downtown Ottawa. The Parliament Buildings are to the northwest. Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, said he saw a man running with a double-barrelled shotgun, wearing a scarf and blue jeans. Walsh said the man hopped over the stone fence that surrounds Parliament Hill, with his gun forcing someone out of a car. He then drove to the front doors of Parliament and fired at least two shots, Walsh said. Some witnesses were taken to the city’s police headquarters. New Democrat MP Hélène Laverdière said she heard 20 to 30 shots inside Parliament, and hit the floor. She and fellow MPs Charlie Angus and Rosane Doré Lefebvre were later led out of the Centre Block to safety. Doré Lefebvre said she was worried about getting her daughter from the daycare facility on Parliament Hill.
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