OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to redouble the country’s fight against “terrorist organizations” abroad after a reported convert to Islam rampaged through parliament, shocking the usually tranquil capital city.
Shortly after a gunman shot dead a soldier at the National War Memorial in central Ottawa on Wednesday morning, a man armed with a shotgun burst into the Center Block of Parliament, pursued by police. He died after dozens of shots rang out a few yards away from where Harper was talking to his legislators.
Ottawa police said it was too early to say whether one person was responsible for both attacks. The killing of the Canadian soldier was the second this week with a possible link to Islamist militants.
Harper said it was too early to know whether the gunman had accomplices but insisted Canada would never be intimidated.
“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,” he said in a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday.
A convert to Islam on Monday ran over two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one, near Montreal.
Both attacks took place after Canada announced this month it would send six jets to take part in air strikes against Islamic State fighters who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.
Harper said Canada would now “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”.
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Canada’s deployment to Iraq would go on unimpeded.
The two attacks in quick succession could push the Canadian government to pause and rethink before introducing a planned bill to change the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, said Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa, who is an expert on national security and intelligence issues.
The bill to boost the powers of Canada’s main spy agency, CSIS, was slated to be introduced in parliament this week.
“What the government is now confronting is a choice with going forward on whatever its original, probably small-scale changes might have been, or sitting back and thinking about whether there is something more that needs to be done,” he said.
Canadian police were investigating a man named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as a suspect in Wednesday’s attack, said a source familiar with the matter.
Court documents show he previously faced a robbery charge in Vancouver and multiple drug-related charges in Montreal.
U.S. officials said they had been advised the dead gunman in Wednesday’s shootings was also a Canadian convert to Islam.
Officials said Parliament would reopen at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) on Thursday.
Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement tweeted that he would convene a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday and added “#terroristsbedamned”.
Clement and hundreds of legislators had spent about 10 hours locked up in the Parliament as police searched the building.
Ottawa police warned the public to expect an increased presence by officers in coming days in the national capital.