The attacker was carrying an AR-15 style assault rifle and a handgun, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. He was also carrying an unidentified “device”, said Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
Video footage showed police officers and civilians carrying some people away from the club and bending over others on the ground. Dozens of police cruisers, ambulances and other emergency vehicles could be seen in the area.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said 39 people were killed inside the club, two outside, and nine others died after being rushed to hospital. A police officer working as a security guard inside the Pulse nightclub exchanged fire with the suspect at about 2 a.m. (0600 GMT), authorities said. Pulse was crowded with some 350 revellers at a Latin music night. “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running,” the club’s management wrote on Facebook as the incident unfolded.
ozens of terrified patrons, some of whom had been hiding in restrooms, were rescued.
IS call for attacks
A man was arrested in California with assault weapons and possible explosives on Sunday and told authorities he was in the Los Angeles area for the gay pride festival, The Los Angeles Times reported. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on a congressional intelligence committee, noted that the Orlando shooting took place during Ramadan, and that Islamic State leaders who control territory in Syria and Iraq have urged attacks during this time.
According to local law enforcement, the shooter had declared his allegiance to Islamic State, Mr. Schiff said in a statement, all of which “indicates an IS-inspired act of terrorism.” If confirmed as an act of terrorism, it would be the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda-trained hijackers crashed jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center, killing some 3,000 people.
A pair of ethnic Chechen brothers killed three people and injured more than 260 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon in April 2013. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who sits on the Senate intelligence and foreign relations committees, told CNN he understood that the gunman had worked for a security company and so would have undergone some background checks.
The choice of target was especially heart-wrenching for members of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida.