OTTAWA, Canada — A Canadian man who had recently converted to Islam killed a soldier at the National War Memorial Wednesday before opening fire in the parliament building, where he was shot dead by authorities.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was born as Michael Joseph Hall, but recently changed his name after becoming a Muslim. He was the son of an immigration official, and has a history of criminal charges, including weapons possession and robbery. According to reports, Bibeau was recently marked as a “high risk traveler” and his passport had been seized.
Yesterday morning, the 32-year-old gunned down 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he was standing guard at the National War Memorial. The soldier later died of his injuries.
“I looked out the window and saw a shooter —a man dressed all in black with a kerchief over his nose and mouth and something over his head as well—holding a rifle and shooting an honor guard in front of the Cenotaph, point blank, twice,” eyewitness Tony Zobyl told the Canadian Press. “It looked like the honor guard was trying to reach for the barrel of the gun. The honor guard dropped to the ground and the shooter kind of raised his arms in triumph holding the rifle.”
After opening fire at the memorial, Bibeau proceeded to the parliament building where shots could be heard ringing throughout the hallways. He was shot dead by Sgt.-at-arms Kevin Vickers. The area remained under lockdown for some time yesterday as the shootout took place.
The incident is now being considered an act of terror. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement yesterday surrounding the matter.
“Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world. But let there be no misunderstanding, we will not be intimidated,” he said. “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.”
The incident occurred just two days after another Muslim man, being called the “ISIL-inspired terrorist” by Harper, struck two members of the Canadian military with his car, killing one and injuring the other. Martin Couture-Rouleau had been the subject of investigation this year and had been blocked from leaving the country this past July when he allegedly sought to travel to Turkey.
“It’s very difficult to know exactly what an individual is planning to do before a crime is committed,” Superintendent Marine Fontaine of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters on Tuesday. “We cannot arrest someone for thinking radical thoughts; it is not a crime in Canada.”
Reports state that Rouleau had praised the Islamic State on his Facebook page, and wrote condemning remarks about Jews and Christians.
Photo: W. Lloyd MacKenzie/ Flickr