OTTAWA — The Montreal-area jihadist who shot and killed a soldier in Ottawa was frustrated that he couldn’t get a passport to leave the country, say residents at a homeless shelter where he stayed this month.
Clients at The Ottawa Mission, just two blocks from Parliament Hill, say Michael Zehaf-Bibeau lived there prior to shooting Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and storming Parliament Hill on Wednesday.
They said the 32-year-old prayed a lot, slept and kept to himself.
"I was his bunk mate, I guess, but I can’t say I knew him," said Walter Henry. "He did keep to himself other than a nod. But I did see him praying."
Henry said Zehaf-Bibeau prayed "mostly when the others had left the room or were asleep."
Some people at the residence said Zehaf-Bibeau mentioned being frustrated that federal officials would not give him a passport to leave the country.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said the terrorist’s mother told them Wednesday that Zehaf-Bibeau wanted to travel to Syria but that the Mounties were not aware of that fact prior to the shooting.
Residents at the shelter saw him for the last time on Tuesday at lunchtime, the day before he walked up to the memorial and shot Cirillo. Zehaf-Bibeau then stormed Centre Block, where authorities shot him dead in the Hall of Honour.
The homegrown terrorist’s parents issued an emotional statement Thursday to The Associated Press, apologizing "for all the pain, fright and chaos he created."
The statement was apparently in response to questions about the mental stability of the lone gunman.
"No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time," wrote Susan Bibeau, a top director at the Immigration and Refugee Board, on behalf of herself and her husband Bulgasem Zehaf.
"We are so sad that a man lost his life. I am mad at our son, I don’t understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time."
The mother said she had lunch with her son just last week after not seeing him for five years.
Zehaf-Bibeau was raised in the Montreal suburb of Laval, where he studied at College Laval, an exclusive private school, from 1995 to 1998.
School principal Michel Baillargeon said Zehaf-Bibeau was an "ordinary student" who didn’t cause trouble.
Sources tell QMI that the terrorist’s parents pulled him out of the school partway through Grade 10 and that he graduated from a public school in 1999, the same year his parents divorced.
His yearbook entry said he went by the name Mike, was "sociable and intelligent," liked to laugh and had a smile that "made girls melt."
Mike "would go far in life," the yearbook read.
Instead, Zehaf-Bibeau converted to Islam and moved to Calgary and then Vancouver, where, according to court documents, he was arrested for robbery and uttering threats.
A senior member of the Burnaby, B.C., mosque Bibeau occasionally attended said they are now gathering information about Bibeau’s time at Masjid Al Salaam.
Daud Ismail, a chairperson with the B.C. Muslim Association, said the mosque is known as a moderate one. "There is zero tolerance for any extremism here."
B.C. Premier Christy Clark visited the mosque earlier this month.
–With files from Joe Warmington, Marie-Laurence Delainey, Bryn Weese, Ada Slivinski and Brian Daly