America witnessed one of it’s deadliest mass shooting in Orlando, by a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State who opened fire inside a crowded gay bar and dance club here early Sunday, leaving 50 people dead and 53 injured.
The gunman was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old Afghani security guard who was born in New York. Mateen fired bullets randomly causing people to dive for cover under tables and scramble for the back-door. People suffered gun shot wounds to arms and legs and chests. Some had their limbs blown off. Many of the victims were Latino who were at the club to celebrate “Latin Night.”
About 2 a.m., Pulse Orlando posted an urgent message on Facebook: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.” Within minutes, police vehicles and a SWAT team had arrived at the scene.
After his attack on the dance club, Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State. Mateen also mentioned the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, during the call. He then held 30 others hostage. The three hour siege ended when police stormed the building and killed him.
Officials at nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center said at least nine people died at the hospital or were dead when they arrived.
President Obama labeled the rampage “an act of terror and an act of hate.” “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people,”
“We’re dealing with something we never imagined and is unimaginable,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, D, who declared a state of emergency in the city. The shooting raised fears of attacks on the American gay, lesbian and transgender community
FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper said that Mateen had been on the FBI’s radar and had twice been questioned by the FBI after he made “inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible ties to terrorists.” but was cleared. He said that investigators had found no indication that Mateen had outside help in planning the attack.
Meanwhile, Mateen’s ex-wife said in an interview Sunday that Mateen, who was Muslim, was not very religious and gave no indication that he was devoted to radical Islam.
“He was not a stable person,” she said. “He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”
He beat her up regularly during their short-lived marriage for trivial things she said. “When he would get in his tempers, he would express hate toward everything. He was mentally unstable and mentally ill: that’s the only explanation that I could give.”
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said it appeared that Mateen was organised and well-prepared as he was armed with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a .223-caliber AR-15-type assault rifle. He was also carrying additional rounds. Mateen had purchased these guns legally in the last few days.
President Obama said it was too early to know “the precise motivations of the killer,” but that the FBI would investigate all possible links between the gunman and terrorist groups.
He also said that the incident served to highlight how easily people can obtain guns in the United States. He also signed a proclamation honoring the victims and ordering that American flags be flown at half-staff until sunset on Thursday.
“Confronting the threat of violent homegrown radicalisation is one of the greatest counter-terrorism challenges our law enforcement and intelligence community faces,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said.
“We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
“These tragedies are far too common and we cannot continue to sit idly by as these incidences continue to happen. Congress must review every available proposal to determine what we can do to reduce all forms of gun violence.” he said.
By early Sunday evening, a Florida LGBT advocacy group had raised nearly half a million dollars for the victims. Equality Florida’s GoFundMe page raised more than $480,000. The funds will go directly to victims and their families, according to the page.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the father of Omar Mateen, Seddique Mateen is a political commentator who rails against Pakistan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Afghan-born Seddique had an occasional television show called “Durand Jigra” on a US-based Afghan satellite channel for about three years. Omar Khatab, the owner of the California-based satellite channel Payam-e-Afghan, said in an interview that Seddique Mateen’s views were mostly anti- Pakistan and focused in part on the disputed Durand Line, the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan demarcated by the Indian subcontinent’s former British rulers.
A YouTube channel under Mateen’s name had more than 100 videos posted between 2012 and 2015.
In the videos, he harshly criticizes Ghani’s policies both at home and abroad. He also lashes out at Pakistan, its intelligence service and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. One of the videos refers to the “killer ISI” – the acronym for Pakistan’s main military-run intelligence service – and says the agency is the “creator and father of the world’s terrorism.”
In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Seddique Mateen, also known as Mir Siddique, said his son’s rampage had “nothing to do with religion.”
He said his son, US-born Omar Mateen, 29, of Florida, saw two men kissing in front of his wife and child and became very angry. He said that he did not know that Mateen had carried such hate in his heart.
“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” Seddique Mateen said. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.”
The death toll means that the Orlando attack surpasses the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, which left 32 people dead.