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Charges laid by city police have been dropped and overtaken by federal terrorism charges laid Saturday against a man accused of shooting up and firebombing Edmonton city hall, said RCMP Tuesday from K Division headquarters.

A gunman entered city hall through the parkade Jan. 23  before opening fire with a rifle and tossing a homemade Molotov cocktail before surrendering to an unarmed security guard.

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Supt. Glenn Sells, officer in charge of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), said he was limited to what he could share with reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, but said while he couldn’t speak to what 28-year-old suspected gunman Bezhani Sarvar intended, he suggested that they were “very lucky” no one was injured.

The Alberta branch of INSET said Monday it charged the accused Saturday with 11 terrorism-related offences, including a counselling commission of terrorism offence and possession of property for terrorist purposes. Other terrorism offences Sarvar faces include intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property knowing the property was inhabited; intentionally possessing incendiary material while committing an indictable offence; using a firearm while committing an indictable offence; and intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life and safety of another person.

Prior charges laid by Edmonton city police included possession of incendiary material, arson, throwing explosives with intent to cause harm and reckless use of a weapon.

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“Our investigation ultimately determined that the actions of Sarvar were believed to be politically motivated and therefore reached the legal threshold required to support the terrorism charges,” Sells said. 

Sells said he could not discuss what the political motivations were or the ideologies but reiterated the evidence supports the terrorism charges. When asked to elaborate on what the threshold needed to be to support terrorism charges, Sells said it was “very complex” and noted terrorism charges are made infrequently.

Evidence collected at the scene by officers included an SKS assault-style rifle, three prohibited rifle magazines, approximately 150 rounds of ammunition and four gasoline-filled Molotov cocktails. Sells said additional evidence included witness interviews and electronic evidence that was not shared with reporters.

terrorism charges
RCMP showed stills of Bezhani Sarvar, who is facing federal terrorism charges for a shooting and firebombing at Edmonton city hall on Jan. 23. RCMP Supt. Glenn Sells spoke with media at K Division headquarters on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Photo by Shaughn Butts /Postmedia

The accused, and the guard who arrested him, were Canadian Corps of Commissionaires employees. Commissionaires said the man started with the company in 2019, working at various locations around Edmonton, though never at city hall.

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The man appears to be the same person in a manifesto-style video posted to YouTube the day of the shooting. The video, titled “Rise up,” shows a man in the driver’s seat of a car wearing a Commissionaires jacket. He tells viewers he is about to complete a “mission” and that he is “not a psychopath” or “one of these monsters that hurt children.” Sells said he could not confirm if Sarvar was the same man in the video. 

Court records show the man lived in a Clareview-area apartment.

City council chamber remains closed to the public but two metal detectors have been set up inside the lobby at the south entrance to the building.

The attack that resulted in about $100,000 in damages left bullet holes in walls, destroyed six glass banisters and one exterior window, and left scorched burn marks on the atrium floor. No one was injured.

Sarvar remains in custody at the Calgary Remand Centre. Sarvar did not speak during a court appearance last month.

Public Safety Canada said INSET teams were created to track and prevent criminal activities of terrorist groups or individuals who pose a threat to Canada. INSET in Alberta includes employees of the RCMP, Edmonton Police Service, Calgary Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

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