A gunman disguised as a police officer has gone on a rampage in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, shooting people in their homes and setting fires, killing 16 people in the deadliest such attack in the country's history.
Officials said the suspected shooter was also dead and a police officer was among those killed in the attack.
Several bodies were found inside and outside one home in the small, rural town of Portapique, about 100km north of Halifax and bodies were found at other locations.
Authorities believe the shooter may have targeted his first victims but then began attacking randomly.
Heidi Stevenson was killed while responding to the active shooter call. (Supplied)
Overnight, police began advising residents of the town to lock their doors and stay in their basements. Several homes in the area were set on fire as well.
Police identified the man believed to be the shooter as Gabriel Wortman, 51, who was thought to live part-time in Portapique. Authorities said he wore a police uniform at one point and made his car look like a Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruiser.
"This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province's history," said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
RCMP spokesman Daniel Brien confirmed that 16 people had been killed in addition to the suspect. The dead officer was identified as Constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year veteran of the force. Another officer was also injured.
Nova Scotia Commanding Officer Lee Bergerman described the events as 'incomprehensible'.
"It's with tremendous sadness that we have lost Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the force who was killed this morning while responding to an active shooter incident.
"Two children have lost their mother and a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague."
A suspect in an active shooter investigation has been arrested today at a petrol station in Nova Scotia. (AP)
Mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada. The country overhauled its gun-control laws after gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women and himself at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique college in 1989. Before this weekend's rampage, that had been the country's worst.
It is now illegal to possess an unregistered handgun or any kind of rapid-fire weapon in Canada. The country also requires training, a personal risk assessment, two references, spousal notification and criminal record checks to purchase a weapon.
"As a country, in moments like these, we come together to support one another. Together we will mourn with the families of the victims, and help them get through this difficult time," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a written news release.
Police block the highway in Enfield, Nova Scotia. (AP)
Police block the highway in Debert, Nova Scotia. (AP)
While they believe the attack did not begin as random, police did not say what the initial motive was. RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said many of the victims did not know the shooter.
Leather said they would investigate whether the attack had anything to do with the coronavirus pandemic but no link has been found thus far.
At one point, there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and police, he said.
Tom Taggart, a lawmaker who represents the Portapique area in the Municipality of Colchester, said the quiet community has been shaken.
"This is just an absolutely wonderful, peaceful quiet community and the idea that this could happen in our community is unbelievable," Taggart said by phone from his home in nearby Bass River.
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