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Homegrown terror strikes at heart of Canada
By TORONTO SUN
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.
Canada, it seems, is under siege from within.
For the second time this week, Canadian soldiers came under attack on our own soil. Yet another terrorist took aim at the people who stand on guard for us, this time right at the epicentre of our democracy within metres of Parliament Hill.
And even more egregious — the gunman targeted a military reservist guarding the National War Memorial — a revered national symbol in memory of so many brave men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedom and way of life.
The Western way of life that seems to so offend these jihadi terrorists.
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old father of one and a reservist with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, was standing sentry at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when he was executed at 9:52 a.m. Wednesday by a masked man bearing a long-barrelled rifle. One witness told reporters the young shooter with long black hair and a “black and white Palestinian type head scarf over his face” 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 soldier died in hospital from gunshots to his abdomen. Warmly remembered as a man who loved dogs and had joined the cadets as a 13-year-old, Cirillo had just arrived in Ottawa for sentry duty a few days before.
In addressing the nation, a grim Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it a “cold-blooded murder” and a terror attack on our values and our society. “Let there be no misunderstanding,” he vowed, “we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”
By nightfall, the gunman had been identified — ironically first by U.S. officials — as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, Canadian-born and a convert to Islam. Media reports said he was one of the many “high risk travellers” identified by Canadian intelligence officials and had his passport seized to prevent his joining Islamic terrorists overseas.
So he launched his attack at home.
The gunman stormed his way into Parliament Hill where Conservative and NDP MPs had just begun their respective weekly caucus meetings. The Prime Minister himself was in the building as well. There could be no better prize for a terrorist intent on making a terrifying impact.
Harper, of course, was one of the targets of the so-called Terror 18, the ragtag group of radicalized young men who had unsuccessfully plotted to attack Parliament Hill and behead the prime minister.
Eight years later, was Zehaf-Bibeau striving to make those pipe dreams a reality? And if not for a brave sergeant-at-arms, would he have been successful?
The brazen gunman certainly managed to evoke a scene never before witnessed in this nation’s 147-year history: A wild firefight erupted in the seat of Canada’s government between the shooter and the guards bent on stopping him. In a chilling video recorded by a Globe and Mail reporter, the exchange of bullets could be heard echoing through the beautiful 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 hail of gunfire that rang through the main Hall of Honour, one parliamentary guard was shot in the leg and another was grazed by a bullet. In all, three people were treated in hospital and released.
It’s terrifying to think how high the body count may have been if not for the courage of Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers. The former Mountie is being widely praised as a hero after he shot and killed Zehaf-Bibeau just outside the parliamentary library before he managed to reach the MPs. “He was in his office and went out to deal with it,” MP Julian Fantino told the Sun’s Joe Warmington. “He is definitely a hero and there are a bunch of heroes here today.”
Prime Minister Stephen 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 capital as authorities couldn’t determine the number of accomplices still on the loose. The Rideau Centre mall, the U.S. embassy and other downtown buildings went into lockdown as rumours spread that at least one other gunman was still at large. Residents were warned to stay away from the area and if they were in the vicinity, they were to stay away from windows and not tweet police locations as the hunt continued for an “active shooter.”
By evening, though, no other suspect had been apprehended.
More, though, was being learned about the dead gunman. Zehaf Bibeau had a long criminal history including convictions in Montreal and Vancouver. Wearing a black and white kiffeyeh similar to the one described by witnesses, his photo appeared on an #ISIS Twitter account, poised for battle.
Was he inspired by his fellow jihadist just a few days before?
This was the second attack on the Canadian military in three days — on Monday, extremist Martin Rouleau ran down one soldier and injured another in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que. before he was shot dead. The radical convert had been under watch by the RCMP and had his passport seized when he tried to fly to Turkey this past summer to join ISIS — just as Zehaf Bibeau’s travel documents had been revoked.
And they are just two of an estimated 90 potential terrorists in our midst.
It’s not as if we had not been warned. Just last month, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney tabled his report “2014 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat To Canada” and warned “Terrorism remains the leading threat to Canada’s national security.”
How prophetic those words now ring in Ottawa.
No one really paid much heed. On Oct. 8, NBC News reported that Canadian officials had thwarted an ISIS-inspired plot to carry out a “knife and gun” attack at a “public place” in Canada. It seemed the stuff of over-reacting Americans. Terrorism doesn’t happen here.
It was admittedly alarming when two intelligence agencies told Parliament two weeks ago about their increasing concerns about radicalized jihadists. But still, they had assured us there was no imminent threat. How wrong they would be.
CSIS director Michel Coulombe told a Commons committee that they know of at least 80 violent radicals who have returned here after being involved in terrorism overseas.
“By the time I leave this room, it’s going to change,” he warned. “Are there some that we are not aware of? Probably. I don’t want to speculate.”
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told the same committee that they had 90 Canadians under investigation for suspected terrorist leanings — and we’ve now learned that Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau were among them.
Known to the government, and yet nothing could stop them.
Last Friday, just days before the Quebec attack, the domestic terrorism threat level in Canada was quietly raised from low to medium for the first time in four years. Intelligence agencies had picked up increased “chatter” from radical Islamist groups about possible attacks after Canada announced this month that it was joining the battle against Islamic State fighters who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.
Despite this warning, two fatal attacks on Canadian soldiers have now followed. It proves the startling and terrifying truth we now must face — no matter how vigilant we may be, it will be incredibly difficult to protect ourselves from the radicals hidden among our own countrymen.
Now an innocent man’s blood stains the granite Cenotaph, spilled not by a foreign enemy, but by an enemy within.
eadly disease. My proposal may not be foolproof, but anything less may prove us fools.
Huntington Beach News