Tributes have poured in for a Canadian soldier who paid the "ultimate sacrifice" when he was shot dead as he guarded the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Ottawa police said the member of the Canadian Forces "succumbed to injuries" following a series of shooting incidents in the city this morning.
The soldier was named locally as Corporal Nathan Cirillo, with his name trending on Twitter tonight and thousands praising him on other social media. Canadian officials tonight identified the gunman who killed him as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. He was also shot dead, reportedly by parliament sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.
Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, was raised in Quebec, according to CTV News, and was a Canadian convert to Islam, Reuters said.
Global News reporter Domenic Fazioli tweeted the shooting suspect's name appears three times in Montreal's court database following arrests for possession of marijuana and PCP in 2004. Fazioli went on to say that the name "Michael Bibeau-Zehaf" also shows up in the database. This person was convicted of marijuana possession in 2009.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was arrested five times while in Montreal. It was for drug possession three times and two more times for "not respecting parole conditions. Police confirmed at an afternoon press conference that a male shooting suspect was dead after a soldier was killed after being shot at the National War Memorial.
It was unclear whether other gunmen remained at large, with police describing the incident as an "ongoing" operation with no-one currently in custody. Police received a number of calls at 9.52am after the soldier was shot, with further gunfire then taking place inside Parliament Hill.
"This is an ongoing operation and we are asking members of the public to stay away from the downtown core," Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau told a press conference. He added that members of the public should remain "vigilant" as police warned people in the area to stay away from windows and rooftops and asked for them to not post videos or photos of the "ongoing incident" to ensure the safety of emergency services and the public.
Officers said that, contrary to reports, no third incident occurred at the Rideau Centre shopping mall. The force said in a statement: "The Ottawa Police Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) responded to reports of shooting incidents this morning in the downtown area.
"Police can now confirm that incidents occurred at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill. One shooting victim succumbed to injuries. He was a member of the Canadian Forces. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones." A Facebook page was set up named Rest In Peace Cpl Nathan Cirillo, which has already been looked at by thousands.
One message, from Bob Rodkin, read: "RIP Nathan. Thank you for your service and the ultimate sacrifice. So tragic, so unnecessary. My prayers go out for you and to your family, friends and colleagues." Another message, from Olivia Marie, said: "RIP Nathan! Thank you for defending our country, your son is so proud of you. I miss you."
Cabinet minister Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were fired while a meeting was taking place between prime minister Stephen Harper and other MPs. "I feared this day would come, and my prayers are with the fallen soldier," he added.
A spokesman for Mr Harper later confirmed he was safe and had left the area.
Video filmed from inside the parliament building shows officers rushing down a large marble hallway with weapons drawn in front of them, before the sound of gunfire and shouting rings out. The footage becomes shaky as the cameraman, believed to be a local reporter, rushes for cover behind a pillar.
People inside the parliament building scrambled down scaffolding to escape, witnesses said. A photograph of chairs piled up against a door as a barricade was being heavily circulated on Twitter, apparently taken inside the meeting room in the parliament building where MPs earlier held their talks.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said he was "shocked and saddened" by today's events. "Ottawa police services are engaged with other law enforcement agencies at this time in pursuit of the criminal or criminals who have carried out this vicious and unwarranted attack," he said in a statement.
Alain Merizier, a waiter in the parliament dining room, said he was on his way to work when he saw a gunman run from a car towards the parliament. "I saw a car suddenly stop," he told the BBC. "There was only one man in the car. He went out of the left side. He had a long gun and he ran away to the front and went inside the parliament. I heard one shot. I saw an officer running after him."
Mr Merizier said the man had long dark hair and a small beard. Vancouver South MP Wai Young said it had been "a difficult day". She said: "I am absolutely stunned because here in Canada we pride ourselves on being open, democratic and welcoming. To have this type of random terrorist attack happen in one of the safest places in Canada is quite shocking."
The shootings come two days after a recent convert to Islam killed one Canadian soldier and injured another in a hit-and-run incident before being gunned down by police. David Cameron responded to the events on Twitter. "I'm appalled by today's attack in Ottawa. I offer my full support to @pmharper and the Canadian people as they deal with this incident," he wrote.