Authorities said an American-born man pledging allegiance to ISIS killed 50 people early Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando, in the deadliest mass attack in the United States and the worst terrorist attack the country has seen since 9/11.
The FBI said gunman Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, interviewed the FBI in 2013 and 2014 but was not found to be a threat.
Officials said Mutin took an assault rifle and a pistol to the packed Pulse Club around 2 a.m. and began shooting, killing 50 people and wounding at least 53.
After a standoff that lasted about three hours, while the people trapped inside the club were desperately calling and texting friends and relatives, the police crashed into the building with an armored vehicle and stun grenades and killed Mattin.
“It looks like it’s well-organized and well-prepared,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in the early hours. Authorities said they had not found any accomplices.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on jihadi forums, but sympathizers with ISIS responded by praising the attack on forums loyal to ISIS.
In a speech to the nation from the White House, President Obama said: “We know enough to say that this is an act of terror and hate.”
While violence could have afflicted any American community, he said, “This is an especially heartbreaking day for our lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender friends.”
Omar Mir was a solid friend born in 1986 in New York. He recently lived in Fort Pierce, about 120 miles southeast of Orlando. Fearing the presence of explosives, police evacuated about 200 people from the apartment complex he was living in while they searched his home for evidence.
Mateen’s parents, who are from Afghanistan, said he expressed anger after seeing two men kiss him in Miami, but they were not considered particularly religious and did not know any connection with ISIS.
He married a woman originally from Uzbekistan, according to the marriage license, but submitted documents to end the marriage in 2011.
Situra Yusef, in a CNN interview in Boulder, Colorado, said that she had been with Mattin together for about four months, although it took a long time for the divorce to be finalized because they lived in different parts of the country after the separation.
She said that Matin was a normal husband at the start of their marriage but began to abuse her a few months later. She said that Mateen had bipolar disorder, although he had not been formally diagnosed. She also said that Lamatin has a history of steroids. He was religious but she said she did not believe his religion played a role in the attack.
Mattin has worked since 2007 as a security officer at G4S Secure Solutions, one of the world’s largest private security companies.
“The armed attack that targeted a gay nightclub in the city of Orlando, Florida, USA, which resulted in the killing and wounding of more than 100 people, was carried out by a fighter from the state,” said a message posted in Arabic on a dark website on the Internet related to the ISIS news agency “Amaq”. Islamic “.
But Salma Abdel Aziz, the CNN reporter, who translated the message and closely monitors ISIS messages, cautioned against taking the message at face value.
She said the language was inconsistent with previous ISIS announcements and that the Arabic word for gay was used in place of a nickname traditionally used by ISIS. She also said that there was no claim that the attack was directed, just an allegation after the incident that the gunman was an ISIS fighters.
At a press briefing, FBI Special Agent Assistant Ronald Hopper said the agency was aware of Mattin. Hopper said he was interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 after he expressed sympathy for a suicide bomber.
“These interviews turned out to be inconclusive, so there was nothing to keep the investigation going,” Hopper said.
Hopper said that Mattin was not under investigation at the time of Sunday’s shooting and was not under surveillance.
In the past two weeks, Mattin has legally purchased a Glock pistol and a long rifle, ATF Special Assistant Agent in charge Trevor Villenor told reporters.
It is not known if these weapons were used in the attack.
They can legally engage in the arms trade and get and buy firearms. He’s done that. And he’s done that over the past week or so, ”said Villenor.
Pulse describes himself as “the most important gay bar” in the heart of Orlando. Hours before the shooting, the club urged partygoers to attend the “Latin flavor” event. The club is a spacious and open space that was hosting over 300 beneficiaries of late
People inside the cavernous nightclub described a scene of panic that was further confused by the loud and dark music.
“At first it looked like it was part of the show because there was an event going on and we were all having a good time,” said club pioneer Andy Moss. “But once people start screaming and the shots keep ringing, you know it’s not a show anymore.”
Christopher Hansen said he was having a drink in the bar around 2 am when he “just saw the dead bodies fall off”. He heard gunshots “one after the other.”
He said the shooting lasted so long that the shooting “could have gone on for an entire song”.
When the shots broke out, Hansen hit the ground, crawling on his elbows and knees, before seeing a man hit by the bullet.
“I took off the bandana and pushed it into the hole in his back,” said Hansen, adding that he saw another woman who appeared to have been shot in the arm.
Survivors gave CNN exciting accounts of how they avoided death. One woman, hiding in the bathroom, covered herself with corpses to protect herself. Some artists hid in a dressing room when the shooting started and fled the building with a crawl when police removed the air conditioning unit.
One of the bartenders said she hid under the glass bar. The police came and said, “If you are alive, raise your hand.” Then the police took her out with others.
After the initial shooting, police surrounded the club while Moutin was inside with club-goers hiding in the bathrooms and other parts of the building. People inside the club were communicating on their phones with law enforcement authorities from that time until around 5 am, when the authorities used an armored vehicle to smash the building’s door.
Mayor Paddy Dyer said that 39 people were declared killed and two dead at the scene, and two bodies were found in the parking lot. He said that 11 people were taken to hospitals and that they were declared dead there.
The City of Orlando publishes the names of the deceased on its website after notifying the next of kin. The youngest of the top seven, Luis Omar Ocasio Cabo, was 20 years old.
A hospital spokesperson said that 43 of the injured were sick on Sunday afternoon at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, where 26 operations were performed.
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Before Sunday, the deadliest shootings in US history were at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, with 32 and 27 deaths. 14 people were killed on December 2 in an attack in San Berardino, California.
National media attention was already focused on Orlando over the weekend due to the fatal shooting of Christina Grimmee on Friday night while she was signing autographs after the show. She was a rising singer who appeared on NBC’s “The Voice”. Then her divorced woman was killed. Pulse’s shooting happened a few miles from the Plaza Live theater, where Grimmie was killed.
Dyer, the mayor, called for the city to unify. “We need to support each other. We need to love each other. We will not be defined by the hateful shooter,” he said.
President Obama called for flags to be lowered to half the staff and Florida Governor Rick Scott called for silence across the country at 6 pm. A state of emergency has been declared for the City of Orlando and for Orange County.
Also Sunday, authorities in West Hollywood, California arrested 20-year-old James Wesley Howell. Officials said they found an arsenal in his car that included three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition, and a 5-gallon bucket of chemicals that could be used to make an explosive device. At 5 a.m. PDT, the police got a call about an intruder and found Howell, who told authorities he was looking for a friend to attend the LA Pride Festival.
There was no indication that the arrest was related to the Orlando attack.
Eleven Orlando Police officers and three deputy sheriffs who exchanged fire with the suspect will be temporarily sacked pending an investigation.
Danny Banks, the special agent in charge of the Orlando office of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said an officer had been hit in the eye when a bullet hit a Kevlar helmet. Banks said the helmet saved the officer’s life.
Nadine Smith of Equality Florida said groups plan to hold vigils across the country. “It was a devastating day, but people started gathering,” she said.
Barbara Puma, the owner of the Orlando Pulse, made the following statement on Sunday:
“Like anyone in the country, I am shocked about the horrific events that happened today. Pulse and the men and women who work there have been my family for nearly 15 years. From the very beginning, Pulse has been a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. I would like to express my deep sadness. My condolences to everyone who lost loved ones, please know that my grief and my heart are with you.