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Canadian Parliament Gunman Was Planning to Travel to Syria

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The man who shot a Canadian soldier Wednesday and then stormed Parliament before being shot dead had been attempting to get a passport and then fly to the Middle East, officials said Thursday.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had been in Ottawa since at least Oct. 2 "to deal with a passport issue, but was hoping to leave for Syria," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said at a press conference. He said that the shooter's mother yesterday had told them that he was planning to go to Syria.

He said that the RCMP had been asked to do a background check on Zehaf-Bibeau, who had several low-level criminal offenses in his past but was not a national security risk.

The commissioner said that the holding up of the passport may have been a reason for the shooting.

"I think the passport figured prominently in his motives," said Paulson. “I’m not inside of his head, but I think it was central to what was driving him."

Paulson said that Zehaf-Bibeau was not on a list of some 90 individuals whom Canadian officials earlier this month had deemed “high-risk travelers” — and his passport application had not yet been rejected, as the background check process was ongoing at the time of the attack.

He said Zehaf-Bibeau, who may have had a dual citizenship with Libya, used a .30-30 Winchester lever-action gun to first shoot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo dead before driving to the Parliament building and exchanging gunfire with police and guards before being killed.

During the briefing, police played surveillance video showing the gunman driving up to Parliament in one car, getting, out, hijacking another car, which belonged to a lawmaker but had only a chauffeur inside, then continuing on to the central building, where he exited the vehicle and ran inside.

Canadian police confirmed Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau was the lone gunman in Wednesday’s rampage, the second attack on Canadian soldiers in three days.

On Monday, Martin Rouleau, 25, drove his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing one, in a Quebec parking lot.

After a chase and shootout with police, Rouleau died in a hospital. Prior to the incident, Rouleau — like Zehaf-Bibeau — had his Canadian passport revoked and was being monitored by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, according to Canadian officials.

Paulson said there was no direct link between the two events this week but Zehaf-Bibeau's e-mail was found in the hard drive of someone charged with what he called a terrorist-related offense.

"We need to understand what that means and so when we say 'a connection' it is a sort of, you know, the weakest of connections. Clearly given what's happened it's strengthened by what's happened," Paulson said.

Image: Surveillance footage of suspected gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau before the shooting
Surveillance footage of suspected gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau before the shootingRCNP/Ottawa Police
Image: Surveillance footage of suspected gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau before the shooting
Surveillance footage of suspected gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau before the shootingRCNP/Ottawa Police

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