At least 50 people were killed and 53 injured by a gunman at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida early on Sunday morning, in the worst mass shooting incident in the U.S.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan origin, used to live in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and was killed in the police operation that followed. The 29-year-old may have been a radicalised Islamist and the investigation will probe that angle too, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We have suggestions the individual has leanings towards [Islamic terrorism], but right now we can’t say definitely,” said Ron Hopper, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Orlando bureau.
President Barack Obama termed the shooting an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.”
Speaking at the White House, Mr. Obama said it’s a “sobering reminder” that an attack on any American is an attack “on all of us.”
According to a report quoting investigators, the shooter called the emergency helpline number 911 and pledged allegiance to Islamic State chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi before starting the carnage. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting, the Amaq news agency tied to the group reported. But thus far there is no indication of a direct connection with the IS in terms of training or instruction to carry out the attacks.
Omar Mateen was earlier investigated by the FBI for suspected terror links.
The club being a known gathering place of the LGBT community, a homophobia angle too is suspected.
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump said in a tweet: “Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.” The presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act.”
( With inputs from Reuters & The New York Times )