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Canada Re-evaluates Security After Shooting In Ottawa


Here is some of the back story of a shooting in Canada. Before he opened fire in Ottawa this week, according to police, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was talking of travel. He told his mother he wanted to go to Canada's capital to get a passport so that he could go to Syria. Instead, according police, he killed a soldier in open fire on Canada's parliament building. Authorities say he was a recent and radicalized convert to Islam. NPR's Jackie Northam is covering the story from Canada's capital. Hi, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what more have you learned about this man?

NORTHAM: Well, the police held a press conference yesterday. And they say that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had been living at a shelter here in Ottawa since early October. They said he had come to the capital from Western Canada because he thought it would be easier to get a passport. And as part of that process, Zehaf-Bibeau came under investigation, primarily because he had a long criminal record. Police initially thought Zehaf-Bibeau wanted to go to Libya. His father was Libyan. And, in fact, his mother told police after the shooting that her son was planning to go to Syria. Despite investigating Zehaf-Bibeau, the authorities did not put him on a high risk watch list. The police say they have no clear motive for the shooting but felt that the delay at getting the passport and his radicalization contributed to Zehaf-Bibeau's actions on Wednesday.

INSKEEP: How much more did the mother say?

NORTHAM: The police did not provide many details. But Zehaf-Bibeau's parents gave an interview to The Associated Press, and they apologized for the pain and the chaos that their son caused. His mother, Susan Bibeau, said she had seen her son last week. And it was the first time in five years that she had seen him, and they had lunch. She said she had very little insight about him. But she called him a lost soul and that he did not fit in. And she also said she was very angry with him over the shooting.

INSKEEP: Well, let's just keep reconstructing the sequence of events here. He's talking to his mother. He says he want to go to Syria. He has some kind of passport trouble there in Ottawa. And then he heads to Canada's war memorial and the parliament building. What happened then?

NORTHAM: Well, there's a surveillance video to show what happened then. And it's shown from three cameras. It was taken after Zehaf-Bibeau had shot the honor guard at the war memorial about one block away. And you can see Zehaf-Bibeau quickly pull up in a car in front of the parliament grounds. He leaps out of the car holding a rifle, and people on the street flee when they see the gun. Zehaf-Bibeau runs up the driveway. He hijacks one of the minister's cars out front and races up to the main entrance of Parliament. And at this point, you can see - police can see what's going on. And you can see them chasing him up the driveway. But Zehaf-Bibeau is already out of the car at that point and has entered Parliament.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm thinking about the security around the U.S. Capitol. It is pretty extensive. There are several layers of security there even though there is an effort made to keep it a public building. What kind of security was there in Ottawa, and what do authorities think about that now?

NORTHAM: Well, there was security. And they liken it to what you would see at an airport. So there would be, you know, metal detectors as you go in and that - but, you know, I've been to the parliament many times. And it's quite relaxed. It's part of the nature of Ottawa and of Parliament as well. You can pretty much guess that it's going to be tightened after this point. And that's one of the things people, you know, that I talked with yesterday on the street were worried about because it is, again, so laid-back here. You know, people use the grass out front of Parliament for massive yoga sessions on Wednesday night or for Frisbee games or football or that type of thing. And that's going to change now. They know that, you know, this is a new day. And there's going to be a lot more security after this incident.

INSKEEP: Is it true that even the prime minister did not have 24-hour protection?

NORTHAM: That's right. That's one of the things that came out yesterday. And that's one of the things that's going to change. It seems that police were not in the caucus room with Prime Minister Harper when shooting happened. And remember that Zehaf-Bibeau was just a few feet away from the caucus room when he was killed. Police were outside the room, not in. And that'll change from now on.

INSKEEP: Jackie, thanks very much.

NORTHAM: Thank you very much, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Jackie Northam. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.