The man who gunned down a soldier and stormed Parliament Hill last Oct. 22 said his actions were spurred by Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In a grainy cellphone video made shortly before his attack, Michael Zehaf Bibeau speaks of assaulting soldiers to show Canadians they are not safe in their own country.
Zehaf Bibeau asks Allah to accept his actions, saying Canadians have forgotten God by occupying Muslim lands and killing righteous people.
In showing the video Friday to the House of Commons public safety committee, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said a total of 18 seconds had been removed — 13 seconds from the beginning, five from the end — for operational reasons he would not discuss.
Zehaf Bibeau fatally shot honour guard Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in October before rushing into Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, where he was killed in a hail of bullets.
Paulson said the RCMP considers Zehaf Bibeau a terrorist and that he would have been charged with terrorism offences under the Criminal Code had he survived.
“It’s not relevant to us or our investigation what kind of a terrorist Zehaf Bibeau was, or if he was a particularly intelligent, sophisticated, influential or personally disciplined terrorist,” Paulson said.
“To us it all turns on the evidence we collect, which we compare against the statute.”
The Mounties are still trying to determine if Zehaf Bibeau had accomplices, Paulson added.
“Anyone who aided him, abetted him, counselled him, facilitated his crimes or conspired with him is also in our view a terrorist and where the evidence exists we will charge them with terrorist offences.”
Zehaf Bibeau became “increasingly aligned with terrorist ideology” in the last years of his life while living in the lower mainland of British Columbia and, for a short period, in Alberta, Paulson told the MPs.
The RCMP hasn’t been able to confirm the origins of Zehaf Bibeau’s rifle, but the police force is releasing a photo of the gun in the hope someone might recognize it.
Paulson confirmed the gunman also had a long knife tied to his wrist when he was killed.
The RCMP has over 130 full-time investigators and staff working on the case, and has interviewed more than 400 people to date.
The Mounties know that in August last year Zehaf Bibeau applied for a Canadian passport at a Vancouver location where he was later informed that his application would be subject to further review.
From Sept. 23 through Oct. 2, he made his way to Ottawa by hitchhiking and travelling on a Greyhound bus.
Within two hours of arriving in the capital, Zehaf Bibeau — a dual national — went to the Libyan Embassy to renew his then-expired Libyan passport, Paulson said. He was told his application would have to be sent to Libya due to discrepancies in his identification documents, a process expected to take as long as a month.
In early October, surveillance cameras on Parliament Hill captured Zehaf Bibeau taking a guided tour of the Centre Block — but there was nothing unusual about his presence.
While in Ottawa, he used public Internet and payphones to stay in contact with people in the Ottawa region and in British Columbia, the commissioner said.
“We have been able to identify some of these individuals and we continue to pursue this avenue.”
Zehaf Bibeau used cash to buy a car the day before his attack. Police recovered the cellphone video from the vehicle.
Paulson learned of the video during a briefing four days after the shooting and directed that a press release be issued. But discussion ensued within the police force.
“We weighed the video’s release against the knowledge that it could serve to further radicalize, and ultimately incite more violence,” Paulson told the committee.
“Initially I was inclined to release the video in its entirety but I was persuaded by the operational decision-makers in the investigation not to do so.”
Two days before Zehaf Bibeau’s attack, a man with jihadist sympathies struck and killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with a car in Quebec.
The two assaults prompted the federal government to introduce controversial anti-terrorism legislation that would broaden the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The decision to finally release the video could be seen as “seeking to influence that process,” Paulson said.
“I assure you I have no such motive. The video speaks for itself. It is what it is.”
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) March 6, 2015