Developing Story: Canadian Capital Under Attack

A disturbing incident is unfolding this morning in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. At least one shooter unleashed mayhem on Parliament Hill this morning, mere days after an incident in Quebec where two members of the Canadian Armed Forces were mowed down by a car. The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Ottawa police are investigating three shootings: one at the War Memorial, one on Parliament Hill and one near the Rideau Centre – all located in the nerve center of the Canadian capital (Update 1:45pm ET: Police only confirm two incidents – one at the National War Memorial, and the other on Parliament Hil; no shooting incident at Rideau Centre). As of noon ET, one shooter is confirmed dead following a gun battle inside the Parliament building, while at least one other is on the loose (Update 9am ET, Oct 23: The lockdown in downtown Ottawa was lifted more than 12 hours after it began, though police operations continue on Parliament Hill. No additional information on potential other suspects.). The astounding video below shows what unfolded in the building:

While Canada – like most other Western nations – has been watchful of the threat of terrorism in the post 9/11 world, the country had not seen terror attacks – until, apparently, this week. Moments after the Quebec incident on Monday, where the two members of the military were hit by a car, a Conservative backbencher – a low-ranking Member of Parliament (MP) – was given a scripted question about the attack to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who immediately spoke of (unconfirmed reports of) a terror attack, before the details of what had transpired had fully emerged. While reports have emerged that the perpetrator had recently become radicalized, the Canadian media have been cautious in reporting on this issue as “possible” terrorism. Today’s attack, which is still unfolding as this is being written, is of a much different nature and will certainly cause Canadians to rethink their analysis of what happened on Monday.

Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, just recently joined the growing international coalition fighting ISIS in the Middle East. Harper believes that Canada has a duty to participate in the fight against ISIS, and has made it clear where Canada stands on the issue of radical Islam. The Harper government has a “tough on crime” agenda, and has been pushing for increased surveillance powers for Canadian police and intelligence for years.

These new attacks – and the daunting reality that Canadians are now a target for terrorism – will support the government’s position that these domestic and foreign policies are necessary and justified. Of course, many will ask whether the decision to join the fight against ISIS and the posturing against radical Islam will have created the conditions for radicalized individuals to commit these crimes. When the guns quiet down, there will be a very important debate in Canada about how to handle the delicate balance between civil liberties and the – now very real – threat of terror in the country.

Update 1:30pm ET: Media confirms death of soldier shot at the National War MemorialThe soldier was a reservist serving in Hamilton from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada.

Update 2:40pm ET:  During a press conference, Ottawa police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say situation is still fluid, and that it is unclear whether it was the same gunman who killed the soldier and who was firing rounds inside the Parliament building. Mostly, we are told it is too soon to confirm most details at this early stage.

Update 5pm ET: Soldier shot and killed at National War Memorial identified as 24 year old Nathan Cirillo. The deceased gunman has been identified as Michael Zehef-Bibeau.

Update 7:30 pm ET: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tweets “Just spoke to @JohnKerry. My message: “This is why we’re with you. This only makes our resolve stronger.”” This is the first senior Canadian official to link the combat operations in the Middle East with the shooting.