OTTAWA – The suspect in yesterday’s shootings in Ottawa had “connections” to jihadists in Canada who shared a radical Islamist ideology, including at least one who went overseas to fight in Syria, multiple United States sources told CNN today.
The gunman was Quebec native Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a convert to Islam, American officials said.
Zehaf-Bibeau was connected to Hasibullah Yusufzai through social media, according to a United States counterterrorism source. Yusufzai is wanted by Canadian authorities for traveling overseas to fight alongside Islamist fighters in Syria, The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, reported.
American officials are reportedly scouring databases and communications for possible links to American-based jihadists.
Other radicalized people connected to Zehaf-Bibeau are still believed to be living in Canada, two United States law enforcement officials said.
Canadian lawmakers returned to work today, giving a standing ovation to the ceremonial Parliament official credited with taking down the gunman who killed a soldier and shook the Parliament area.
Their return came as the country tried to come to grips with the second killing of a soldier on home soil in three days, and questions as to why the attacks came and who exactly was behind them.
“We’ll be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic. And as for the business of government, well, here we are – in our seats, in our chamber, in the very heart of our democracy,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Lawmakers stood and cheered Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who officials say took down the suspect in the halls of Parliament minutes after the killing of Canadian army reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at a war memorial nearby.
Vickers, who regularly leads a procession into the House as sessions begin, stood with his ceremonial mace and appeared to be emotional during the ovation.
He later released a statement saying he is touched by the attention.
“However, I have the support of a remarkable security team that is committed to ensuring the safety of Members, employees and visitors to the Hill,” Vickers said.
It was a step toward normalcy for a government district that was widely locked down for hours after the shootings at Canada’s National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.
Authorities say a man shot and killed Cirillo, who was standing guard at the war memorial yesterday morning. The gunman then entered the nearby main Parliament building in downtown Ottawa, where witnesses say shots were fired – many by security officers – before he was shot dead, authorities said.
A plainclothes constable who was working security at Parliament was shot in the leg, according to a House of Commons official briefed on the investigation. The injury is not life-threatening, and the constable was treated at a hospital and released, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The shootings left government workers and others locked inside offices for a large portion of the day while police searched buildings to ensure that no other culprit was loose.
Yesterday’s deadly attack was the second on Canadian soldiers this week. On Monday, a convert to Islam who Canadian authorities said was “radicalized” hit two soldiers with a car in Quebec, killing one of them. Police later killed the man.
“When faced with attacks on the country we all love . . . I know we will always stand together,” Harper said. “Canadians will not be intimidated.”
Canadian authorities had confiscated Zehaf-Bibeau’s passport when they learned he planned to go fight overseas, an American law enforcement official told CNN’s Susan Candiotti. The official said it was not clear when that happened.
Zehaf-Bibeau, who was born as Michael Joseph Hall in 1982, had a history of drug use before he converted, two sources said.
His mother, Susan Bibeau, spoke to The Associated Press by phone today. She struggled to hold back tears and said she didn’t know what to say to those hurt in the attack.
“If I’m crying, it’s for the people,” Bibeau reportedly said. “Not for my son.”
“I’m mad at my son,” she said in a separate email to the AP.
Police are satisfied that only one person was responsible for yesterday’s shootings, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau told Canadian media outlet CTV News this morning.