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Soldier gunned down near Parliament Hill identified as Hamilton man

Sarah-Joyce Battersby, Cormac MacSweeney, Toronto staff, and The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 22nd, 2014

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A Canadian army reservist has died and a gunman was shot dead inside Parliament Hill after armed attackers opened fire on multiple Ottawa targets on Wednesday morning.

The slain soldier, who was standing guard at the War Memorial when he was shot, has been identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He left behind a young son who recently started kindergarten, his friend Mat Petersen said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was rushed away from the building to an undisclosed location, officials in his office said.

A high-ranking federal official confirmed to The Canadian Press that the dead gunman was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Little else is known about the man, but one media report said he’s Canadian and was born in 1982.

In a live televised address Wednesday evening, Harper called the shooter a terrorist and said the shootout inside Parliament’s Centre Block was an attack on all Canadians.

“Attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governments are, by their very nature, attacks on our country,” Harpers said. “Let there be no misunderstanding; we will not be intimidated.”

Harper said the tragic incident will strengthen Canada’s resolve to track down would-be terrorists at home and to help our international allies rout terrorists in Iraq.

“This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world,” he said.

“I have every confidence that Canadians will pull together with the kind of firm solidarity that has seen our country through many challenges.”

Police continued combing a locked-down national capital for other potential threats on Wednesday.

“This is an ongoing police operation and there is no one in custody at this time,” Ottawa’s police chief said.

The Ottawa Hospital said that three patients, not including Cirillo, were admitted and discharged later in the day.

In Toronto, police are working to increase security at high-profile areas, including malls, the TTC and Queen’s Park.

MPPs appear to be conducting legislative business as usual.

“There were some suggestions that perhaps we should suspend question period,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said during the session.

“Our belief is that people who are using violence to undermine democracy want us to be silenced, and we refuse to be silenced.”

For more details on Toronto’s increased safety measures click here.

In Ottawa, heavily armed tactical officers could be seen searching rooftops in the immediate parliamentary precinct.

Police would only say they are investigating “several shooting incidents in downtown Ottawa.”

Initial reports of incidents at Rideau Centre and a pursuit on a highway were false, Ottawa’s police chief said.

For the latest updates from our reporters in Ottawa follow our live blog.

Parliament Hill reporter Cormac MacSweeney was on the phone with his editor, talking about possible assignments, when the shooting started at Parliament Hill shortly before 10 a.m. He then turned on his recorder, and below is the audio:

He heard screaming and running from the front doors of Parliament followed by gunshots.

A witness told MacSweeney he saw a man wearing body armour walk through the front doors of Parliament Hill with what appeared to be a long gun. He was able to fire a few shots before security guards returned fire.

“There were at least six shots fired. The guy seems to be about middle age, he was wearing a hat, a shotgun or a rifle, I am not sure. We just ran when the firing started and ran down the stairs to the lower level, and we’ve taken shelter in one of the offices of the centre block on Parliament Hill,” the witness, named Frank, said.

MPs are crediting Kevin Vickers, 58, sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons for saving lives. Vickers reportedly shot the gunman dead as he was moving through the halls of Parliament towards the caucus.

Police herded bystanders off the street into a major office building and warned people to stay away from the windows.

Military bases across the country are reportedly now being closed to the public.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement ahead of Harper’s address.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were attacked,” read the statement.

“The police continue to do their important work and we are still gathering the facts.”

Cabinet minister Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were heard inside the building, where Conservative and Liberal MPs were holding their weekly caucus meetings.

Most of those MPs remain locked down in their caucus rooms.

The NDP caucus was evacuated along with the Liberal Senate caucus.

A witness reported that a man drove up in a black vehicle, got out carrying a rifle and ran into the Centre Block — the seat of the House of Commons under the Peace Tower.

The vehicle, with no rear licence plate, parked directly in front of the Langevin Block.

Witnesses report seeing a man dressed in black with a scarf wrapped around his face, carrying a double-barreled shotgun.

Follow live coverage by reporters of CityNews, 680News and Maclean’s magazine.

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