Saturday 25 October 2014

Canada to step up fight against terror

Gunman in Parliament attack was on watch list, had criminal record
The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2014

OTTAWA - Canada's Prime Minister vowed that the country would "not be intimidated" after a reported extremist stormed Parliament and killed a soldier, the nation's second "terrorist" attack in three days.

He told the House of Commons yesterday that the government will expedite plans to give more powers of detention and surveillance to security agencies.

World leaders condemned the attack, with US President Barack Obama expressing "solidarity" with Canada and British Prime Minister David Cameron saying he was "appalled" by it. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the news was "extremely disturbing" while Singapore said the attacks underscored the need for countries to remain vigilant in dealing with terrorist threats.

The gunman, whose name was on a terror watch list, attempted to force his way into Canada's Parliament in Ottawa on Wednesday before the assembly's sergeant-at-arms shot him dead.

The incidents heightened fears that Canada, which announced this month it would send six jets to take part in United States-led air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had been targeted in a reprisal.

On Twitter, followers of ISIS warned of more attacks to follow.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted that "Canada will never be intimidated".

"In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts and those of national security agencies to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe," he said in a TV address to the nation late on Wednesday.

The authorities identified the gunman as Michael Zehaf- Bibeau, who had changed his name from Michael Joseph Hall and is a convert to Islam. He was raised in Quebec and had a long criminal record, including robbery and drug charges.

The security breach came two days after an alleged self-radicalised extremist ran over two soldiers in a Quebec parking lot, killing one of them, in what officials branded a terrorist attack. The driver, Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25, was shot dead by police.

His passport was seized by the authorities in June when he was stopped from boarding a plane to Turkey, a regularly used stopover for militants heading to Syria.

Zehaf-Bibeau's passport had also been seized on suspicion that he would travel to join the militants, reports said.

On Wednesday morning, he allegedly shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was on ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial, before storming into the nearby Parliament buildings.

Mr Harper was then in one of the buildings but was evacuated. Over 30 shots were fired inside the buildings as Zehaf-Bibeau was killed by the security chief.


Singapore's stand

SINGAPORE condemns the shootings, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said in a statement yesterday. "The attacks underscore the need for countries to remain vigilant in dealing with the threat posed by terrorists. Singapore stands in solidarity with the Canadian government in the fight against terrorism."

Quebec-born shooter was recent convert to Islam
The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2014

OTTAWA - The gunman involved in a shootout at Canada's parliament complex was a native-born Canadian with a history of drug and robbery charges who had recently converted to Islam.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, was known to the authorities and had his passport seized because he was considered a high-risk traveller, according to the Globe and Mail.

A United States law enforcement official, citing Canadian counterparts, said he had changed his name from Michael Joseph Hall. He was also known as Abdullah Zehaf- Bibeau, the official said.

According to the Postmedia news agency, Zehaf-Bibeau was born in Quebec but moved frequently in recent years.

He also had a long criminal record, having been charged with possession of marijuana and phencyclidine and a robbery in Vancouver in 2011, the agency reported.

Mr Dave Bathurst, who met Zehaf-Bibeau at a mosque about three years ago, said his friend did not at first appear to have extremist views, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.

But there were times when he exhibited a disturbing side, said Mr Bathurst.

"We were having a conversation in a kitchen... He said the devil was after him," Mr Bathurst told CBC.

He said his friend frequently talked about the presence of shaytan - an Arabic term for devils and demons. "I think he must have been mentally ill."

Mr Bathurst last saw Zehaf- Bibeau six weeks ago, praying at a mosque in the Vancouver area, and said he spoke of wanting to go to the Middle East.

He insisted his only intention was to learn about Islam and study Arabic, Mr Bathurst said.

A photo of Zehaf-Bibeau circulated in Canadian media showed him with a scarf over the lower half of his face, aiming a rifle straight ahead.


Veteran security chief lauded for saving lives
The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2014

OTTAWA - The Canadian Parliament's 58-year-old head of security was being hailed as a hero after shooting dead a gunman who stormed the building.

Canadian ministers and lawmakers identified the House of Commons' Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers as the man responsible for firing the shots that brought down the assailant on Wednesday.

Member of Parliament Craig Scott said on Twitter that Mr Vickers had slain the gunman just as he approached rooms packed with politicians.

"MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms," Mr Scott wrote.

Mr Vickers, a 29-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was appointed Sergeant-At-Arms in 2006.

The position leaves him in charge of security at the parliamentary buildings.

He also carries the mace, the symbol of parliamentary authority, during formal proceedings and ceremonies.

Canada's Minister of Justice Peter MacKay named Mr Vickers in a post on Twitter following the shoot-out drama.

"To all in Ottawa, stay safe & strong. Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our Cdn security forces. True heroes," Mr MacKay wrote.

Canadian Minister of Veteran Affairs Julian Fantino also identified Mr Vickers in a post.

"I am safe & profoundly grateful to Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our security forces for selfless act of keeping us safe," he wrote.

Senator Linda Frum responded to a tweet identifying Mr Vickers as the man who had brought the shoot-out to a bloody conclusion with one word : "Hero".

Reporter Kady O'Malley said: "Remind me to hug Kevin Vickers next time I see him."


Shooter 'not flagged as threat'
Canadian police say Ottawa gunman was not on their security radar
The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2014

OTTAWA - Police acknowledge that the gunman who traumatised the Canadian capital had not been identified as a security threat, even as experts say more attacks by "lone wolves" or small groups on Western soil are likely.

Mr Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said on Thursday they did not even know Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was in Ottawa.

Mr Paulson was speaking at a press conference a day after the gunman killed a soldier at a war memorial before being shot dead in the halls of Parliament.

The police determined that Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, born to a Canadian public servant and a Libyan father, arrived in Ottawa as early as Oct 2, apparently hoping to expedite his passport application.

Mr Paulson said the police had not blocked the process. They learnt of Zehaf-Bibeau's Syrian travel plans from his mother after his death, said the commissioner.

Zehaf-Bibeau was also not among the 93 people monitored by national police forces as being likely to join terror groups abroad.

Mr Paulson said his motives remain largely unknown, but was confident that the gunman had acted alone and had no strong ties to other extremists.

Zehaf-Bibeau, whose parents changed his name from Michael Joseph Hall, went to a Montreal private school before committing a string of crimes. He converted to Islam, became radicalised and was staying at a shelter for the homeless several blocks from Parliament.

His mother, Ms Susan Bibeau, a deputy chairman at the Immigration and Refugee Board, said in a phone interview with the Associated Press: "Can you ever explain something like this? We're sorry."

More attacks by lone wolves or small groups are likely, said political risk assessment specialist Jeffrey Simon from the University of California at Los Angeles.

"The numbers are increasing, and it's getting more difficult to track these individuals in terms of when, where or who these lone wolves might be," he said.

"The game-changer is the Internet... It allows groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to put out a call around the globe."

In an audio message last month, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani exhorted sympathisers to carry out revenge killings on nations including Canada that have joined the United States in its war against the group.

Mr Marc Tyrrell, a senior research fellow at Carleton University, said Zehaf-Bibeau seemed to fit one profile for radicalisation, as a petty criminal.

"The message coming out of ISIS and other groups provides justification for taking larger actions they want to take anyway. It makes them feel they're part of the group," Mr Tyrrell said.


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