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Homegrown terror strikes at heart of Canada

Homegrown terror strikes at heart of Canada

TORONTO – Homegrown terror struck at the heart of Canada on a fall morning, leaving a soldier murdered, the shooter dead and a nation reeling in shock.

Cpl Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old father of one and a Canadian Forces reservist with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Hamilton, was standing sentry at the National War Memorial in Ottawa when he was executed at about 9:52 a.m. Wednesday by a masked man bearing a long rifle. One witness told reporters he saw the young shooter with long black hair was wearing a “black-and-white Palestinian type head scarf over his face” and raised his arms in triumph after shooting Cirillo twice at point blank range.

Despite frantic efforts by a tourist and later by emergency responders, the reservist died in hospital from gunshots to his abdomen.

A U.S. official identified the shooter to CBS News as Canadian-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32.

Now his next act was to begin.

The gunman stormed his way into Parliament Hill where Conservative and NDP MPs had just begun their respective weekly caucus meetings. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the building as well.

It was a scene never before witnessed in this nation’s 147-year history: A wild firefight erupted in the seat of Canada’s government and in a chilling video recorded by a Globe and Mail reporter, the hail of bullets could be heard echoing through the marble hallway of Centre Block.

“Will always remember the sound. Parliament will never be the same,” tweeted NDP MP Ryan Cleary.

As the smell of gunpowder filled the air, frightened MPs barricaded themselves behind doors reinforced with furniture. “Shots fired during caucus meeting. at least 30 shots. MPs piled out. I’m safe with 2 colleagues but we’re still at risk…,” tweeted MP Tony Clement. “PM was in caucus but now secure. Assuming it’s not safe to venture out yet.”

During the exchange of gunfire through the main Hall of Honour, one parliamentary guard was shot in the leg and taken to hospital, another was grazed by a bullet. Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers is being widely praised as a hero after he stopped and killed the shooter just outside the Parliamentary library before he managed to reach the MPs.

Harper was rushed out of Parliament to a secure location. A photo of him being briefed by security officials was released to the media to quell public fears he may have been injured in the terror attack. While he was safe, his staff received an e-mail ordering them to remain in their offices and take cover under their desks. “There are currently active shooters in the Parliament Hill vicinity,” they were warned.

Fear and panic filled the city as authorities couldn’t determine the number of gunmen still on the loose. The Rideau Centre, a nearby shopping mall, the U.S. embassy and other downtown buildings went into lockdown as rumours spread that at least one gunman was still at large. Residents were warned to stay away from the area and not to tweet police locations as the hunt continued for an “active shooter.”

By evening, though, no other suspect had been identified.

This was the second attack on Canadian armed forces in two days — on Monday, extremist Martin Rouleau ran down one soldier and injured another in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu before he was shot dead. The Islamic radical was under watch by the RCMP and had his passport seized when he tried to fly to Turkey this past summer to join ISIS.

In April, a Canadian member of ISIS had issued his warning on YouTube: “This is a message to Canada, we are coming and we will destroy you.”

A country has been left wondering: Are these their opening shots?

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