On Wednesday, US and Canadian air defenses were put on heightened alert following a shooting in Canada’s parliament, and the American embassy in Ottawa was placed on lockdown, officials said.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) “is taking appropriate and prudent steps to ensure we are adequately postured to respond quickly to any incidents involving aviation in Canada,” said a U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
NORAD spokesman Captain Jeff Davis declined to provide details but said steps had been taken to ensure defenses were “adequately postured.”
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed the U.S. embassy in the Canadian capital was on lockdown, and staff movements had been restricted. Obama spoke by telephone with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while Secretary of State John Kerry was also briefed as he flew home from a visit to Germany.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Harf said, adding all U.S. embassy staff had been accounted for.
NORAD, founded during the Cold War, is a combined U.S. and Canadian military command designed to safeguard the air space over the two countries, with its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
Since the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, the command regularly scrambles fighter jets to intercept private aircraft that enter prohibited areas over the U.S. capital or elsewhere, escorting them to the nearest runway.