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Ottawa Gunman's Actions Were 'Linked To His Radicalization,' Authorities Say

A makeshift memorial sits on a downtown street a block away from Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa to remember Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed by an assailant Wednesday.
Warren Toda
A makeshift memorial sits on a downtown street a block away from Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa to remember Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed by an assailant Wednesday.

Updated at 4:54 p.m. ET

The mother of the man identified ashaving gunned down a soldier before storming into Canada's Parliament complex offered condolences to the family of the victim, saying she had not seen her son for five years before meeting him for lunch last week.

Susan Bibeau, the mother of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, who was killed in a gunbattle with authorities, wrote in an email to The Associated Press that she and her husband wanted to "apologize for all the pain, fright and chaos" their son created.

"We have no explanation to offer," she wrote. "I am mad at our son, I don't understand, and part of me wants to hate him at this time."

Bibeau, a senior official at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, said her son was "lost and did not fit in."

During a briefing with reporters, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said while they still don't know the full extent of Bibeau's motivation, his actions were "linked to his radicalization."

According to Paulson:

-- There is no evidence that Bibeau was linked to Martin Rouleau-Couture, the newly radicalized man who ran over two Canadian soldiers on Monday.

-- Bibeau was not on the list of 90 or so Canadians that authorities consider to be a risk and are monitoring for national security reasons.

-- Bibeau's email address, however, was found on the computer of a man, Paulson said, who was arrested on a terrorism charge.

-- Talking to his mother, police learned that Bibeau had intentions to travel to Syria. He had applied for a passport and authorities were in the midst of investigating his application.

-- Bibeau was a Canadian citizen and he may have also held Libyan citizenship.

NPR's Jackie Northam reports that Zehaf-Bibeau has been described as "a fairly recent convert to Islam" who had a criminal record in multiple provinces. "He was also the son of a very senior official of Canada's immigration department," she says.

The Globe and Mail says he was "a labourer and small-time criminal — a man who had had a religious awakening and seemed to have become mentally unstable."

The newspaper reports: "Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999."

The Globe and Mail quotes an acquaintance of Zehaf-Bibeau's who said the alleged attacker had frequently spoken of the presence of devils or demons in the world and had recently expressed a desire to go back to Libya to study. He apparently had been blocked from getting a visa to Libya by Canadian authorities "who have been taking measures to prevent Canadians from joining extremists overseas," the newspaper says.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. says Zehaf-Bibeau was charged in 2004 with drug possession, pleaded guilty and served 60 days in jail.

According to the CBC:

"Zehaf-Bibeau was in trouble with the law again in 2011, this time in British Columbia.

"Following a robbery in Vancouver, Zehaf-Bibeau was charged with robbery and uttering threats. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of uttering threats and sentenced to one day in jail, with credit for 66 days already served, according to court documents.

"Quebec court documents from 2004 show Zehaf-Bibeau lived in Montreal at the time, in the north-end neighbourhood of Villeray."

Meanwhile, Ottawa police said early Thursday they had finally ruled out the possibility of a second shooter. It wasn't yet clear whether the incident was tied to one the day before in which two soldiers were run down in a car, one killed and the other injured by someone described as having been radicalized by Islam.

"It could just be a coincidence, but certainly it did raise concern that the attacks happened so closely together," Jackie reports from Ottawa. "This all comes at a critical time for Canada, when Canada says it's going to help in the fight against the so-called Islamic State and Canada is providing men and support for that effort."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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