OTTAWA, Ontario -A masked gunman dressed all in black shot a Canadian soldier standing guard at a war memorial in the country’s capital Wednesday, then entered Parliament, where dozens of shots rang out, authorities and witnesses said.
At least three people were taken to the hospital.
People fled Parliament by scrambling down scaffolding erected for renovations, while others took cover inside as police with rifles and body armor took up positions outside and blocked the normally bustling streets around the building.
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“We believe there is more than one” gunman, Ottawa police Constable Marc Soucy said.
The attack came two days after a recent convert to Islam killed one Canadian soldier and injured another in a hit-and-run before being shot to death 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 Tuesday because of “an increase in general chatter from radical Islamist organizations,” said Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for the public safety minister.
On Wednesday, Tony Zobl, 35, said he witnessed the soldier being gunned down from his fourth-floor window directly above the National War Memorial, a 70-foot, arched granite cenotaph, or tomb, with bronze sculptures commemorating World War I.
“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 honor guard in front of the cenotaph point-blank, twice,” Zobl told the Canadian Press news agency.
“The honor guard dropped to the ground, and the shooter kind of raised his arms in triumph holding the rifle.”
Zobl said the gunman then ran up the street toward Parliament Hill. Shots were also fired at a shopping mall near Parliament, police said. All three sites – the war memorial, Parliament and the mall – are within less than a mile from each other.
Cabinet minister Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were heard inside Parliament, where Conservative and Liberal MPs were holding their weekly caucus meetings.
“I’m safe locked in a office awaiting security,” Kyle Seeback, another member of Parliament, tweeted.
The top spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Harper was safe and had left Parliament Hill.
Ottawa Hospital said it received three patients, two of them listed in stable condition. It would not comment on the condition of the third patient, the soldier shot at the memorial.
Officials also canceled two events in Toronto honoring Pakistani teenager and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, including one in which she was supposed to receive honorary Canadian citizenship. The teenager was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for calling for schooling for girls.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police warned people in downtown Ottawa to stay away from windows and rooftops.