At least 50 people have been killed and another 53 injured after a heavily armed gunman opened fire and seized hostages at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Police said the incident began at 2am when the gunman started firing and an officer on duty at the club exchanged shots with him. They said it then descended into a hostage situation. The situation was resolved three hours later when a Swat team stormed the nightclub after receiving messages from club patrons who were hiding in the club while the gunman was still at large.
When asked whether the suspect was thought to have any affiliation with Islamic State, the FBI assistant agent in charge, Ron Hopper, said: “We do have suspicions that the individual may have leanings toward that ideology.” When pushed as to what led him to believe that, he clarified that all possibilities were being investigated.
- 50 people were killed inside the Pulse club and at least 53 people were injured, police say.
- The gunman was Omar Mateen of Ft. Pierce, Florida, a law enforcement source told CNN.
- Orlando police shot and killed Mateen
- Mateen called 911 around the time of the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and mention the Boston bombers, according to a U.S. official.
- Mateen is a US-born citizen with Afghan parents, and an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account is believed to have released an image of the shooter.
FBI official Ronald Hopper told reporters officials were “confident” there was no immediate further threat to the area, or to the United States.
Because of the scale of the crime, however, Orlando’s Mayor declared a city-wide state of emergency and has asked the Florida Governor to take the same measure state-wide.
The gunman was killed during a shootout with police as they broke into the nightclub to rescue 30 people held hostage there.
- Mr Obama described the attack as “the brutal murder of dozens of innocent people”.
- “It was an act of terror and an act of hate,” he said, adding that it was a heartbreaking day for the LGBT community.
- An attack on any American is an attack on all, he added. “We are united in grief, in outrage and resolve to defend our people.”
- French President Francois Hollande expressed “horror” at the killings, and said Americans had the “full support of France” in this “difficult time”.
- Pope Francis condemned the “homicidal folly” of the shooting.
Guns Found With the Killer
Omar Mateen was armed with AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun to kill his victims.
The rifle is legal to buy in most states, including Florida. In 1994, Congress passed an assault weapons ban that prohibited manufacturing AR-15 for civilian sale with large-capacity magazines, bayonets or pistol grips. The ban limited, but did not end, sales of AR-15s. The weapons ban expired in 2004. [Newyork Times]