Two deadly attacks in three days against members of the military stunned Canadians and raised fears their country was being targeted for reprisals for joining the U.S.-led air campaign against an extremist Islamic group in Iraq and Syria.
"We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated," Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in a nationally televised address hours after a masked gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Ottawa's war memorial shortly before 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The suspect then stormed Parliament in a dramatic attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms.
Harper called it the country's second terrorist attack in three days. A man the prime minister described as an "ISIL-inspired terrorist" on Monday ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring another before being shot to death by police.
Investigators offered little information about the gunman in Ottawa, identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. But Harper said: "In the days to come we will learn about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had."
Canada was already on alert Wednesday because of the deadly hit-and-run assault Monday. 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.
ISIL, or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, has called for reprisals against Canada and other Western countries that have joined the U.S.-led air campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
It is not known if the two incidents are related, though Ottawa police said during the press conference that the shootings "caught us by surprise."
Harper vowed that the attacks will "lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts" to keep the country safe and work with Canada's allies to fight terrorists.
Canadian authorities identified the deceased soldier as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones," a short statement added.
Police confirmed they received a call at 9:52 a.m. on Wednesday regarding a shooting near the Parliamentary building, with witnesses saying they saw someone running toward Parliament Hill.
Scott Walsh, a construction worker who was on the scene, told Reuters he heard a gunshot and then saw a man dressed in black with a scarf over his face running toward Parliament with a gun.
The man stopped a black car at gunpoint and hijacked it, Walsh said. The driver got out unharmed, then the man drove to the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, where construction work is underway.
The gunman rushed past a woman with a child in a stroller. She ran away screaming, but he did not attack the woman or child, Walsh said.
Centre Block is the main building at Parliament Hill, a sprawling complex of buildings and open space in downtown Ottawa. It contains the House of Commons and Senate chambers, as well as the offices of some members of Parliament, senators and senior administration for both legislative houses.
Witnesses said the soldier posted at the National War Memorialwas gunned down at point-blank range by a man carrying a rifle and dressed all 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, according to witnesses.
People fled the complex by scrambling down scaffolding erected for renovations, while others took cover inside as police with rifles and body armor took up positions outside and cordoned off the normally bustling streets around Parliament.
On Twitter, Canada's justice minister and other government officials credited 58-year-old sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers with shooting the attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms. Vickers serves a largely ceremonial role at the House of Commons, carrying a scepter 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 U.S. 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.
With wire services