Ottawa shooting: Gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau wanted to travel to Syria

The man who stormed Canada’s government complex Wednesday, killing a soldier and sending Ottawa into a lockdown, had recently applied for a passport and was hoping to leave for Syria, his mother told Canadian authorities.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said Thursday that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the 32-year-old whose morning raid on Parliament Hill ended when a sergeant-at-arms gunned him down as he was unleashing a fusillade of bullets in Parliament, had been in Ottawa since Oct. 2, the Globe and Mail reported.

Authorities were still searching Thursday for a motive in the deadly attack. But Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said that Zehaf-Bibeau -- a recent Muslim convert whose father was from Libya -- may have lashed out in frustration over delays in obtaining a passport.

"I think the passport figured prominently in his motives. I'm not inside his head, but I think it was central to what was driving him," Paulson said, adding that authorities learned from his mother, Susan Bibeau, after the attack about his desire to travel to Syria.

"His application was not rejected. His passport was not revoked. He was waiting to get it and there was an investigation going on to determine to see whether he would get a passport," Paulson said.

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    Earlier this week, the Mounties said that there are about 90 people in the country who are suspected of intending to join the extremist fighting abroad or who have returned from such activity overseas. But Paulson said Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau was not among them.

    But Zehaf-Bibeau was known to federal authorities, who had uncorroborated information that he was known to an individual "known to us," Paulson said, the Globe and Mail reported. An email of his was found on the hard drive of someone that the RCMP had charged with a terrorist-related offense, the paper reported.

    Bibeau is the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, and divorced Bibeau’s father, according to the Globe and Mail.

    In an email to the AP expressing horror and sadness at what happened, Bibeau said that her son seemed lost and "did not fit in," and that she hadn't seen him for more than five years until having lunch with him last week.

    "So I have very little insight to offer," she said.

    In a brief and tear-filled telephone interview with the AP, Bibeau said that she is crying for the victims of the shooting rampage, not her son.

    "Can you ever explain something like this?" said Bibeau, who has homes in Montreal and Ottawa. "We are sorry."

    Witnesses said an armed Zehaf-Bibeau drove to the Ottawa complex just before 10 a.m Wednesday, jumped out of a Toyota with no license plates and ran to the National War Memorial, where he shot a soldier later identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. The 25-year-old father of a 6-year-old boy, who was a member of Canada's Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment, died later at Civic Hospital.

    Zehaf-Bibeau then ran to the East Block of Parliament Hill, firing more shots and sending politicians, journalists and other workers scattering, although no one else was killed. He was brought down in the rear building of the complex, near a library, by Kevin Vickers, 58, who serves as the House of Commons' sergeant-at-arms.

    The raid came just one day after Canada raised its terror alert and two days after another jihadist convert, Martin Couture-Rouleau, killed uniformed Canadian soldier Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in a hit-and-run in Quebec that police believe was intentional. Couture-Rouleau, who was shot to death by police, had recently had his passport seized to bar him from traveling to the Middle East to join the Islamic State.

    Canada raised its alert level after the attack, and cited chatter from Islamic State sources calling on supporters to strike back at Canada in retaliation for its decision to join coalition forces performing airstrikes in Iraq.

    It was not immediately clear if Zehaf-Bibeau knew Couture-Rouleau, but Paulson said there was no apparent link between the two attacks. But a friend, Dave Bathurst, told the Globe and Mail that Zehaf-Bibeau did know Hasibullah Yusufzai, a British Columbia resident who was charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in July with traveling to Syria to join Islamic State. Yusufzai remains at large despite an international arrest warrant being issued for his capture.

    Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, said in Parliament that this week's attacks were probably "the acts of isolated, disturbed and deeply troubled men who were drawn to something crazy."

    Paulson appeared to agree in Zahef-Bibeau's case, saying that his history of crime, violence, drugs and "mental instability" contributed to his radicalization.

    Court records that appear to be Zehaf-Bibeau's show that he had a long record, with convictions for assault, robbery, drug and weapons offenses, and other crimes.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted that both Monday's attack and Wednesday's shooting were carried out by citizens born in Canada.

    "The fact of the matter is there are serious security threats in this country, and in many cases, those serious security threats continue to be at large and not subject to detention or arrest," he said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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