[OTTAWA] The gunman in Wednesday's attack on Canada's capital acted alone and, despite a criminal record, had no apparent links to a convert to Islam who killed a soldier in Quebec earlier in the week, police said on Thursday.
Wednesday's gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, was a Canadian who may also have held Libyan citizenship, said Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot a soldier at a national war memorial on Wednesday before racing through the parliament building in the capital Ottawa where he was shot dead.
In the Quebec incident on Monday, Martin Rouleau, 25, rolled over two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one, before he too was shot dead, police said. "We have no information linking the two attacks this week,"Paulson told reporters in Ottawa, which remained on high security alert. "Our partners at the Ottawa police service, and at the RCMP agreed that Zehaf-Bibeau acted alone and that he is the person that perpetrated the attacks at both the war memorial and on Parliament Hill," Paulson said.
He said police expected to swiftly determine whether Zehaf-Bibeau received any support in the planning of his attack.
Zehaf-Bibeau had recently applied for a passport but checks by the RCMP did not turn up any evidence of national security related criminality despite criminal records indicating infractions related to drugs, violence and other criminal activities, Paulson said.
The RCMP said Zehaf-Bibeau, who was born in Montreal and had gone on to live in Calgary and Vancouver, wanted to go to Syria. US officials said on Wednesday they had been advised Zehaf-Bibeau was a convert to Islam, the same as the assailant in Monday's attack. "He was born of a father from Libya and a Canadian, and we need to investigate and understand his radicalization progress. He is an interesting individual in that he had a very well developed criminality," Paulson said. "There is no one path or one formula to radicalization." The commissioner said his e-mail was found in the hard drive of someone charged with what he called a terrorist-related offence. "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.
Zehaf-Bibeau was not one of a group of 93 people the RCMP are investigating as "high-risk travelers," he added.
Underscoring tensions on Thursday, armed police arrested a man who tried to approach the shooting site just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was laying a wreath to commemorate the slain soldier.
On Tuesday, Canada sent six warplanes to the Middle East to participate in US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants who have taken over parts of Iraq.
Harper said the attack would only strengthen Canada's response to "terrorist organizations." He pledged to speed up a plan already under way to bolster Canadian laws and police powers in the areas of "surveillance, detention and arrest."
A woman who identified herself as the suspect's mother issued a statement earlier on Thursday apologising for her son's apparent actions. "No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time," said the woman, Susan Bibeau, in a statement provided to the Associated Press. "We send our deepest condolences." Zehaf-Bibeau stayed at a homeless shelter in a downtrodden part of Ottawa for at least a week before the attack, multiple people at the site said on Thursday. "This whole thing is devastating for people here," said a resident of the mission who identified himself as Jean Claude."What would make a guy do something like that?" Shelter officials declined to comment on whether or how long Zehaf-Bibeau stayed there, citing the police investigation.
Police have interviewed some of the people who were at the shelter but none of the people with whom they spoke said they had any knowledge of his plans.
Tighter security was evident all over the sprawling parliamentary zone in downtown Ottawa.
The flag flying over Parliament's Centre Block, where the gunman had burst in on Wednesday morning, was at half mast and bullet holes could be seen in the carpet just inside the front door and in the masonry in the hallway.
See map of Ottawa locating the parliament building, attacked by a gunman on Wednesday, and the National War Memorial, where a soldier was killed earlier in the day.