Nathan Cirillo
Tributes have poured in for fallen solder Corporal Nathan Cirillo who died in Wednesday’s attack on Canada’s parliament buildingFacebook

Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the Canadian soldier shot dead by a gunman while guarding a war memorial in Ottawa, has been praised by his family as a "national hero".

The 24 year-old ceremonial officer was shot by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau during Wednesday's attack at Canada's parliament building in Ottawa.

Zehaf-Bibeau was himself later shot dead by sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers after his shooting spree.

Cirillo's family thanked fellow Canadians for their support following the reservist's shooting, and released the following statement via Captain Robert Andrushko.

"On behalf of our family, we want to say thank you to the entire nation. On 22 October we lost a son, a brother, a father, a friend and a national hero.

"We are not only mourning as a family, but also a country.

"When we lost Nathan, we all mourned as one. There are no words to express the sadness that has fallen upon us all.

"We take comfort knowing Nathan has done our country proud.

"The support of the nation in this devastating time provides a measure of comfort and helps make this almost bearable."

Cirillo, who was unarmed at the time of the attack, was shot in the back while he guarded the National War Memorial. The area was sealed off after the shooting, as Cirillo received medical aid.

He was transferred to hospital by an ambulance, but later died of his injuries. Cirillo is expected to be honoured with a full regimental funeral, which is likely to take place on Tuesday.

Cirillo leaves behind a wife and a six-year-old son, Marcus. The soldier, who also worked as a personal trainer and bouncer, was described by friends and family as a "great father" and a "kind and gentle man". A GoFundMe was launched to support Cirillo's family.

Cirillo was also an ardent animal lover, and his Instagram and Facebook pages are filled with pictures of himself with his two dogs, one of which he affectionately called "girl".

Many of the pictures show the dogs sleeping in his bed and on days out with his son.

Poignant images taken on Thursday at the Cirillo family home in Hamilton show the soldier's dogs forlornly peeking their heads underneath the front gate, apparently expecting the return of their owner.

National tribute

Cirillo was one of two Canadian soldiers killed this week by home-grown extremists. On Monday, 25 year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau was shot dead in Quebec after running over two soldiers with his car and killing 53-year-old warrant officer Patrice Vincent.

Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper led senior military officials and thousands of fans in singing the national anthem before the start of a Canadian Football League game this week in honour of the dead soldiers. Harper also joined a crowd at the National War Memorial in Ottawa to mark Cirillo's death.

Zehaf-Bibeau, a Muslim convert and the son of a Canadian immigration official, was described as being mentally ill. The Canadian national of Libyan descent had been designated as a high-risk traveller because of his jihadist sympathies, and had his passport seized.

It emerged this week that Zehaf-Bibeau had been in Ottawa to apply for a new passport in the hope of travelling to Syria.