WASHINGTON—U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday, expressing U.S. condolences and support in the wake of a shooting attack in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
Mr. Obama was briefed on the situation Wednesday in the Oval Office by his top counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, and U.S. agencies across the government scrambled to lend assistance in the response and investigation to the attack authorities believe involved multiple shooters at a war memorial and the Parliament.
“The details about the nature of this event are still sketchy, which is not unusual in a chaotic situation like this one,” Mr. Earnest said. “Officials inside the U.S. government have been in close touch with their Canadian counterparts to offer their assistance.”
Mr. Obama, addressing the shooting Wednesday after a meeting with senior aides, said the investigation of the Ottawa shooting attack is not complete, but that the U.S. is closely coordinating with Canadian officials as questions swirl about whether the incident was a terrorist plot.
He said the incident, which has prompted tighter security around the Washington area, is “tragic.”
“We don’t yet have all the information about what motivated the shooting,” Mr. Obama said. “We don’t yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan or whether this was an individual or series of individuals who decided to take these actions.”
The incident emphasizes that the U.S. must “remain vigilant” against violence, he said. He added it is “very important for us to recognize that when it comes to dealing with terrorist activity that Canada and the United States have to be entirely in sync.”
“We have in the past; I’m confident we will continue to do so in the future,” Mr. Obama said.
The State Department said Wednesday the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa had been placed on lockdown as Ottawa police searched for possibly other assailants in the shooting attack.
All U.S. personnel in the embassy are safe and accounted for, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that the State Department is restricting their movement as a precautionary measure.
Ms. Harf said she hadn’t heard of any other official U.S. buildings on lockdown in Ottawa.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Army increased security at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery as a precautionary measure, officials said.
In the Canadian attack, at least one gunman attacked at the country’s main war memorial and the nearby Parliament building in Ottawa, leading to the move to heighten precautions at the high-profile U.S. memorial. Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman said there has been no increased security at the Pentagon itself or at any other military installations in the U.S.
The U.S. Capitol Police, the law enforcement agency responsible for security at Congress, has not made any significant modifications to its security posture and
The agency “remains at a post-9/11 heightened level of awareness,” said spokesman Shennell Antrobus, adding that Capitol Police are tracking the events in Canada.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for security at the White House and for top administration officials, is “aware and monitoring the situation,” spokesman Brian Leary said.
Earlier, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was monitoring the situation in Ottawa. But for now, an agency official said, there “is no specific reporting to indicate that ongoing events in Canada pose a threat to the United States.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry , who is traveling back from Berlin, was briefed on the events on his plane and is watching the situation closely, she said. Amid reports the attacks might be tied to Islamist extremists, Ms. Harf said it was too early to speculate on the motives of the attacks.
There had been no claim of responsibility for the attack, and U.S. officials said it was too soon to conclude the shootings had terrorist connections. But jihadist sympathizers have taken to social media to tout two days of attacks in Canada and to encourage more.
One Twitter account cited the suspected hit-and-run assault Monday by Martin Rouleau, a Canadian man under investigation for extremism, who was killed in a high-speed chase after his car ran over two Canadian soldiers, killing one.
“Muslims in Canada, follow the footsteps of our brave brother Martin Rouleau, who took revenge for Canadian military aggression in our lands,” said the Oct. 21 Twitter message, posted on an account under the name Abu Khalid Al-Kanadi—which means “the Canadian” — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist messages.
That account was later suspended, but others have weighed in similarly. Non-Western, Arabic-language Twitter accounts also seized upon the Canadian shootings.
An account under the name Nasser al-Khilafah, which means supporter of the Caliphate, welcomed “news about shooting fire in the Parliament and around its perimeter,” and said, “Canada was among those who announced openly to cooperate with the coalition for fighting the [Islamic] State.”