OTTAWA: The Canadian Parliament in Ottawa was under siege on Wednesday after multiple gunmen struck. One of them shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial before entering the adjacent Parliament building, where multiple rounds were fired. Shooting also was reported at a nearby shopping mall.
Police officers rushed to secure the Parliament building and move occupants to safety as they hunted for possibly two or three assailants, in what seemed to be a coordinated attack.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that one assailant had been killed. The condition of the soldier who was shot was not immediately clear.
The shootings began about 10 a.m., just as the leaders of Parliament were holding their weekly meetings, suggesting the possibility of deliberate timing. Many of the lawmakers were rushed into secure rooms in the basement by guards.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been inside Parliament at the time of the shooting but was evacuated safely, Canadian news reports said. He had been scheduled to give Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, her Canadian citizenship.
The entire area, known as Parliament Hill, was placed on lockdown as police reinforcements arrived.
Journalists cowering inside the building said they heard dozens of rounds and could smell gunpowder in the hallways.
The government said there is not yet any evidence that the gunman has any ties to violent Islamic extremism but noted that it is still early in the investigation. The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, too, has been shuttered.
The shootings in the heart of the normally calm Canadian capital came two days after a Canadian soldier died in a hit and run, which was seen as an act of terrorism carried out by a jihadist. On Tuesday, Canada had even raised a ‘national terror alert’.