A gunman whose name was on a terror watch list killed a soldier and attempted to storm Canada’s parliament before being gunned down in turn by the assembly’s sergeant-at-arms.
The attacker, identified in the Canadian media as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was considered a “high risk” suspect and had seen his passport seized to prevent him fighting abroad.
Instead, he shot and killed a Canadian soldier who was mounting a ceremonial guard at a war memorial in downtown Ottawa before storming into the nearby parliament building.
The soldier was named in reports as Corporal Nathan Cirillo, part of a detachment on ceremonial duties at Parliament Hill, the heart of Canada’s national government and home to its legislature.
The attacker was killed, reportedly 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 MPs.
Police said an investigation was continuing, but earlier reports that more gunmen were involved appeared unfounded.
WATCH BELOW: Disturbing raw footage from the Canadian parliament attack.
Heavily armed officers backed by armoured vehicles sealed off the building on Wednesday.
The attack came two days after another alleged Islamist drove over and killed a soldier in what authorities branded a terrorist attack.
Authorities had raised the security threat level from low to medium after the car attack, which came as Canadian jets were to join the US-led air armada bombarding Islamist militants in Iraq.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned that “facts are still being gathered” as he “condemned this despicable attack”.
A police spokesman said two people received “minor injuries” in the incident.
MPs, staff and reporters evacuated from the building spoke of intense gunfire in the historic building on Parliament Hill.
Video footage posted online by the Globe and Mail newspaper showed police ducking for cover as they advanced along a stone hallway, loud gunfire echoing among parliament’s stone columns.
A member of parliament, Maurice Vellacott, said that House of Commons security had told one of his aides the suspect had been killed inside parliament.
“I literally had just taken off my jacket to go into caucus. I hear this ‘pop, pop, pop’, possibly 10 shots, don’t really know,” Liberal Party member John McKay told reporters outside.
“Suddenly the security guards come rushing down the hallways and usher us all out to the back of the parliament buildings,” he said, as MPs, staff and reporters scurried from the area.
Witnesses at the scene said they saw a man armed with a rifle running into parliament after shooting a guard at the war memorial.
Passers-by told reporters that a bearded man had gunned down the soldier and hijacked a passing vehicle to take him the short distance to Parliament Hill, on a bluff over the Ottawa River.
One witness, parliamentary aide Marc-Andre Viau, said he saw a man run into a caucus meeting at the parliament, chased by police armed with rifles who yelled “take cover”.
That was followed by “10, 15, maybe 20 shots,” possibly from an automatic weapon, he said. “I’m shaken,” said Viau.
Police raced to seal off the parliament building and Harper’s office, pushing reporters and bystanders back and blocking roads.
Harper – who was attending a meeting with MPs in parliament at the time – left the area of the shooting and was “safe”, his spokesman Jason MacDonald said.
In Canada’s southern neighbour the United States, President Barack Obama condemned the attack as “outrageous” after talking by telephone with Harper, the White House said.
The incident came a day after 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau ran over a soldier, killing him before being shot dead by police as he emerged from his wrecked car wielding a knife.
Couture-Rouleau was reportedly a supporter of the so-called Islamic State, a jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria, and on the same list as Zehaf-Bibeau.
HOW THE ATTACK UNFOLDED:
9.52am (0052 AEDT): A shooter opens fire at two soldiers at the National War Memorial. One soldier is hit by bullets and seriously injured. He receives treatment at the scene before being rushed to hospital.
9.55am: Dozens of shots ring out inside the nearby parliament building. In video footage released later, a loud bang is heard before police swarm down a corridor returning fire.
10.00am: Police warn of a second “active shooter” in parliament.
10.04am: Witnesses say the gunman who opened fire at the war memorial had headed towards the parliament.
10.12am: Parliament is put on lockdown.
10.25 am: Royal Canadian Mounted Police advise the public to stay away from buildings or offices where MPs work.
10.37am: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is evacuated from parliament. A general evacuation gets under way as a wide security perimeter is set up around parliament and surrounding streets.
10.40am: Police warn that a gunman remains at large and staff in Harper’s office are informed that “active shooters” are threatening parliament.
10.53am: Police ask people in the downtown area to stay away from windows and rooftops and to avoid the area completely.
11.20am: Police confirm the death of an attacker inside the parliament building.
11.45am: Officials confirm that the soldier shot by the war memorial has succumbed to his injuries.
Shortly after 12.15pm: US and Canadian air defences are put on heightened alert.
1.50pm: US President Barack Obama speaks to Harper, according to the White House.
2.15pm: Police say the operation is still ongoing as they attempt to identify the suspect.
2.30pm: Harper condemns a “despicable attack” and says he will address the nation later Wednesday.
Help our journalists uncover the facts
In times like these InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to donate to InDaily.