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Harper vows Canada won't be intimidated by 'terrorists'

AFP | Canadian police patrol the streets of Ottawa shortly after Wednesday's attack on parliament

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country "will never be intimidated" after a gunman attacked Canada's parliament in Ottawa and killed a soldier at a nearby war memorial in the second deadly attack on the military in three days.

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  • The gunman was killed and has been identified as Canadian Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.
  • The attack -- the second this week targeting Canadian military personnel -- came as Canadian jets were to join the US-led bombing campaign against Islamist militants in Iraq.
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in parliament when the attack started. He was unhurt and evacuated from the premises.
  • Harper said Canada “will never be intimidated” in an evening address to the nation and will "redouble efforts" to work with allies in the fight against extremist militants.
  • Police lifted safety blockades in the downtown area at 8.30 pm local time.

Witness said the masked gunman shot dead Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in central Ottawa before going on to attack the parliament building minutes later.

Lawmakers were meeting in caucus rooms when the boom of gunfire rocked parliament, prompting some to barricade doors with chairs and others to flee the building.

"PM (Harper) was addressing caucus, then a huge boom, followed by rat-a-tat shots. We all scattered. It was clearly right outside our caucus door," Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement told Reuters news agency.

The attacker was reportedly killed by a shot fired by the bearer of the House of Commons' ceremonial mace, Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, who was hailed as a hero by lawmakers.

Canadian media have identified the attacker as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, saying he was considered a "high risk" suspect whose passport had been confiscated to prevent him fighting abroad.

"According to local reports, his father is said to have travelled to Libya in 2011 to join the fight against former strongman Muammar Gaddafi," said FRANCE 24's Emmanuel Saint-Martin, reporting from Ottawa.

The killing of the Canadian soldier was the second this week with a possible link to Islamic militants.

It followed an attack on two soldiers in Quebec on Monday carried out by 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau, a convert to Islam.

One soldier was killed in the attack, along with Couture-Rouleau, who was shot dead by police.

“The country is in shock,” said FRANCE 24 correspondent Anne Diandra Louarn, reporting from British Columbia, following Wednesday's second attack. “This is not the kind of thing that happens here.”

'Not intimidated'

Prime Minister Harper was defiant when he spoke on television 10 hours later, with some buildings still under emergency lockdown and police saying they were still looking into the possibility of a second gunman.

Harper said it would become clear in days to come whether the man who launched a gun attack on parliament – and whom he called “a terrorist” – was acting alone or had accomplices. “Let there be no misunderstanding. We will not be intimidated.

Canada will never be intimidated,” he said. “In fact 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 and keep Canada safe here at home.”

Canada announced this month it was joining the battle against so-called Islamic State fighters who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

On Tuesday, it raised its domestic terror threat level from low to medium because of what it called "an increase in general chatter from radical Islamist organizations.''

FRANCE 24's Louarn said that while the motivations of Wednesday's shooter are not yet known, "everyone is making the link with the soldier killed by the suspected Islamist gunman on Monday”.

“These two attacks are being interpreted as a failure of Canada’s security policy,” Louarn added.

Security has came under criticism after Wednesday's gunman was able to run through the unlocked front door of the main parliament building.

"It caught us by surprise ... If we had known that this was coming, we would have been able to disrupt it," Gilles Michaud, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, (RCMP) told a news conference.

Ottawa police have warned the public to expect an increased presence by officers in coming days in the national capital.

To read through Wednesday's developments, scroll through our blog below.

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