Friday 16 November 2018

Mum of Canada shooting suspect Michael Zehaf-Bibeau: 'I'm crying for the victims, not for my son'

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The mother of the man identified as Ottawa gunman has said she is crying for the victims of the shooting, not her son.

Susan Bibeau released a statement to the press, less than 24 hours after her son went on a rampage in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, slain Ottawa shooter, had criminal record in Quebec, B.C.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, slain Ottawa shooter, had criminal record in Quebec, B.C.
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police vehicle passes the Fairmont Chateau Laurier as it leaves a secure area downtown following shootings in Ottawa October 22, 2014
Police officers gather police tape following shootings in downtown Ottawa October 22, 2014
Investigative personnel stand outside the street entrance to Parliament Hill following shootings in downtown Ottawa October 22, 2014
The Conservative Party caucus room is shown with its doors barracaded with furniture shortly after the shooting began (Reuters)
Police officers take cover near Parliament Hill (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
First aiders rush to assist the solider shot outside the National War Memorial (Daneil Thibeault/CBC/Reuters)
A timeline of the attacks
Terror came to Canada yesterday as a gunman shot dead a soldier at point-blank range before rampaging through parliament in the capital of Ottawa. AP Photo
Stephen Harper
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police intervention team responds to a reported shooting at Parliament building in Ottawa yesterday. Photo: AP
The Conservative Party caucus room is shown shortly after shooting began on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa. Photo: Reuters
A police officer patrols the scene near the Canada War Memorial. Photo: Reuters
A still image captured from video footage by the Globe and Mail newspaper shows police officers responding to shooting attacks inside the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Photo: Reuters/Globe
Kevin Vickers
Emergency personnel tend to a soldier shot at the National Memorial near Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Armed RCMP officers head in to Centre Block on Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Armed RCMP officers guard access to Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Armed RCMP officers approach Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Police officers take cover near Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Armed RCMP officers guard the front of Langevin Block on Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Police officers control traffic on Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Armed RCMP officers head towards the Langevin Block on Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Police officers control traffic on Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa
Police officers and ambulance workers gather alongside the Canadian War Memorial following a shooting incident in Ottawa
A Canadian soldier who was shot outside the war memorial on Parliament Hill in tended to in Ottawa
Police officers patrol alongside the Canadian War Memorial following a shooting incident in Ottawa
An ambulance is pictured alongside the Canadian War Memorial following a shooting incident in Ottawa
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police intervention team responds to a reported shooting at Parliament building in Ottawa
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police intervention team walks past a gate on Parliament hill in Ottawa

Ms  Bibeau said she did not know what to say to those hurt in the attack."Can you ever explain something like this?" she said. "We are sorry."

Earlier today, Canadian police conceded there was just one gunman in the attack in Ottawa.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at Canada's war memorial and stormed parliament before being shot dead by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms.  Zehaf-Bibeau is privately educated and is a recent Islamic convert.

His mother is Canada's immigration chief. 

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was a petty criminal – a man who had had a religious awakening in recent years and seemed to have become mentally unstable, it is reported by Canada's Globe and Mail.

Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999.

Head of RCMP Bob Paulson briefs Canadian prime Minister Stephen Harper on the shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Head of RCMP Bob Paulson briefs Canadian prime Minister Stephen Harper on the shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Just before 10am on Wednesday a shooter opened fire on a guard at the National War Memorial opposite Parliament Hill, killing Corporal Nathan Cirillo with a rifle at what witnesses described as point-blank range.

The gunman is believed to have then got into a car and driven up to the main Parliament Centre Block building, where he engaged in a gun battle with police and was shot dead by the 58-year-old sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.

Read more: Ex-Mountie gets standing ovation as praised as shootout hero

Born as Michael Joseph Hall and raised just north of Montreal, he was privately educated with a privileged background. However, he appeared to rebel against that background. Quebec courthouse records show that he had at least 13 cases against him.

Police secure the scene of a shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Police secure the scene of a shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

According to CTV News, the Canadian federal government had deemed Zehaf-Bibeau a “high-risk traveller”. It also quoted a source as confirming that officials had seized the suspect’s passport.

In 2004, he was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of PCP. He spent 61 days in jail for the two charges.

He was convicted of marijuana possession again in 2009.

He was also convicted on a weapons charge and received three years probation.

The longest stretch of his criminal career was for possession of break-in tools for which he was sentenced to two years in jail with three years probation.

In 2011, he underwent a psychiatric assessment after being charged with robbery.

A fellow convert, David Bathurst, said met Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau in a Burnaby, B.C., mosque about three years ago. He said Zehaf-Bibeau did not at first appear to have extremist views or inclinations toward violence – but "at times exhibited a disturbing side".

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police intervention team responds to a reported shooting at Parliament building in Ottawa
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police intervention team responds to a reported shooting at Parliament building in Ottawa

He said: “We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don’t know how he worded it: He said the devil is after him,” Mr. Bathurst said in an interview. He said his friend frequently talked about the presence of Shaytan in the world – an Arabic term for devils and demons. “I think he must have been mentally ill.”

The last time Mr Bathurst met Zehaf-Bibeau  was about six weeks ago when he saw him  praying in a Vancouver-area mosque six weeks ago. He spoke of wanting to go to the Middle East soon.

“He wanted to go back to Libya and study,” Mr. Bathurst said. He urged his friend to make sure study was on his mind and “not something else.”

Map shows the relative locations of the National War Memorial and Parliament buildings
Map shows the relative locations of the National War Memorial and Parliament buildings

Zehaf-Bibeau insisted he was only going abroad with the intent of learning about Islam and to study Arabic.

However, Zehaf-Bibeau was stopped from travelling abroad. He had not been able to secure a valid travel document from federal officials, who have been taking measures to prevent Canadians from joining extremists overseas.

Meanwhile, Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the Ottawa outrage the country's second terrorist attack in three days.

"We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated," he vowed in an address to the nation early today.

Unfolding just before 10am local time, while MPs were meeting in caucus rooms, the assault rocked parliament with the boom of gunfire, leading members to barricade doors with chairs and sending people streaming from the building in fear.

Mr Harper was addressing a caucus when the attack began outside the door, but he was led to safety by his security detail.

Armed police officers walk down Queen Street near Parliament Hill, close to the scene where the gunman was later shot and killed
Armed police officers walk down Queen Street near Parliament Hill, close to the scene where the gunman was later shot and killed

Investigators offered little information about the gunman, identified as 32-year-old petty criminal Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. But Mr Harper said: "In the days to come we will learn about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had."

A government source said today that Zehaf-Bibeau was a recent convert to Islam.

Canada was already on alert because of a deadly hit-and-run attack on Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Mr Harper described as an "Isil-inspired terrorist". Isil, or Islamic State (IS), has called for reprisals against Canada and other Western countries that have joined the US-led air campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

Witnesses said the soldier posted at the National War Memorial, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was gunned down at point-blank range by a man carrying a rifle and dressed in black, his face half-covered with a scarf. The gunman appeared to raise his arms in triumph, then entered parliament, a few hundred yards away, where dozens of shots soon rang out, witnesses said.

People fled the complex by scrambling down scaffolding erected for renovations, while others took cover inside as police with rifles and body armour took up positions outside and cordoned off the normally bustling streets around parliament.

On Twitter, Canada's justice minister and other government officials credited sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, 58, with shooting the attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms.

Mr Vickers serves a largely ceremonial role at the House of Commons, carrying a sceptre and wearing rich green robes, white gloves and a tall imperial hat.

At least three people were treated for minor injuries.

In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the shootings as "outrageous" and said: "We have to remain vigilant."

The US embassy in Ottawa was locked down as a precaution, and security was tightened at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington.

Mr Harper vowed that the attacks would "lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts" to keep the country safe and work with Canada's allies to fight terrorists.

Police said in the initial hours that as many as two other gunmen may have taken part in the attacks. But by late in the evening, the cordon around parliament was lifted and police said there was no longer any threat to the public in the area.

Court records that appear to be the gunman's show that he had a long criminal record, with a string of convictions for assault, robbery, drug and weapons offences, and other crimes.

Tony Zobl saw the soldier being gunned down from his fourth-floor window directly above the National War Memorial, a 70ft arched granite cenotaph with bronze sculptures commemorating the First World War.

"I looked out the window and saw a shooter, a man dressed all in black with a kerchief over his nose and mouth and something over his head as well, holding a rifle and shooting an honour guard in front of the cenotaph point-blank, twice," Mr Zobl told the Canadian Press news agency.

"The honour guard dropped to the ground, and the shooter kind of raised his arms in triumph holding the rifle."

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had video of the gunman going to his car alone with his weapon after the shooting at the memorial. The car was later spotted parked in front of Parliament Hill nearby.

Cabinet minister Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were heard inside parliament, where Conservative and Liberal MPs were holding their weekly meetings.

"I'm safe locked in a office awaiting security," MP Kyle Seeback tweeted.

"I was just taking off my jacket to go into caucus. I hear this pop, pop, pop. Possibly 10 shots, don't really know. Thought it was dynamite or construction rather than anything else," said MP John McKay.

He said security guards then came rushing down the halls, herding them toward the back of the buildings.

"And then we started talking to another woman and she was apparently inside the library of parliament, saw the fellow, wearing a hoodie, carrying a gun," Mr McKay said, "and then the implications of this start to sink in."

The attack came two days after a recent convert to Islam killed one Canadian soldier and injured another with his car before being shot dead by police. The killer had been on the radar of federal investigators, who feared he had jihadist ambitions and seized his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey.

Canada had raised its domestic terror threat level from low to medium on Tuesday because of what it called "an increase in general chatter from radical Islamist organisations". That day Canada sent eight fighter jets to the Middle East to join the battle against Islamic State.

After the shootings, officials cancelled two events in Toronto honouring Pakistani teenager and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, including one in which she was supposed to receive honorary Canadian citizenship. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for supporting schooling for girls.

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