The deadliest shooting massacre ever to take place on American soil, slaughtering 50 and wounding at least 53, was carried out by an ISIS loyalist early Sunday morning at a “gay’ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility Sunday afternoon through its Amaq news agency for the shooting rampage of 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a Muslim who has openly pledged allegiance to the terrorist group, according to Reuters.
It was announced by ISIS’s news service that the shooting rampage was carried out by an “Islamic State fighter.”
Just after 2 a.m. on Sunday, the mass shooting began at the Pulse nightclub — which dubs itself “the hottest gay bar” in Orlando. The tragedy that continued until around dawn, when police stormed the building and fatally shot the jihadist.
More than 300 packed the club for “Latin Night,” with 50 being fatally shot, at least 53 receiving gunshot wounds and dozens being taken hostage for several hours. The nightmare ended around 6 a.m., when Orlando police tweeted that the gunman was gunned down.
Islamic attack through and through?
Declaring the mass shooting “an ISIS-inspired act of terrorism,” House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff asserted that the timing, location and data received from local authorities all pointed to the Islamic State.
"The fact that this shooting took place during Ramadan and that ISIS leadership in Raqqa has been urging attacks during this time, that the target was an LGBT night club during Pride, and — if accurate — that according to local law enforcement the shooter declared his allegiance to ISIS, indicates an ISIS-inspired act of terrorism," Schiff informed, according to Fox News. "Whether this attack was also ISIS-directed, remains to be determined. I’m confident that we will know much more in the coming hours and days."
Adding to the evidence that the attack was an act of jihad carried out by an Islamic militant, eyewitnesses reported Mateen yelling “Allah Akbar” while going back-and-forth with police, according to an account given by law enforcement sources to Fox News. The conservative news agency also reported that the shooter called 911 during the massacre and pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
However, President Barack Obama would not call the mass shooting an act of terror carried out by Islamic radicals.
"We know enough to say this was an act of terror and an act of hate," Obama declared in a Sunday White House speech, warning Americans not to jump to conclusions — as the incident was still in the early stages of investigation.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was quick to call Obama out for not protecting Americans and for refusing to attribute the Orlando terrorist attack to Islamic radical terrorism. Because of his alleged negligence, Trump called for Obama to resign as president.
Back in 2013 and 2014, FBI agents interviewed Mateen three times for two different investigations, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Hopper, who said that both were closed due to inconclusive evidence.
Even though Hopper maintains that Mateen was not being investigated at the time of the shooting — or under FBI surveillance — he says the 2013 investigation looked into comments the shooter allegedly made to a co-worker “alleging possible terror ties.”
The FBI investigation carried out on Mateen the next year looked into his Islamic terrorist ties overseas.
“Mateen was also interviewed in 2014 due to his ties to an American man who later drove an explosive-laden truck into a restaurant in Syria for an Al Qaeda affiliate,” Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Mike McCaul told Fox News. “Mateen and the suicide bomber, Monar abu Salha, attended the same mosque, however, the FBI determined their contact ‘was minimal.’"
Other information surfacing about Mateen was divulged by Rep. Alan Grayson, who announced in a news conference held on Sunday morning that Mateen was a U.S. citizen, which is “not true of other family members of his.” He is reported to be a Muslim who resided in Fort Pierce, Florida, and to have been born in New York to Afghan parents.
In 2009, Mateen married an Uzbekistan native, who he divorced in 2011.
"He was not a stable person," his ex-wife, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Washington Post. "He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that."
It was also discovered from a 2013 mortgage form that Noor Salman was his wife at the time of the massacre, and that he had a three-year-old son.
Apparently, Mateen had no criminal record, even though new information pointing to his militant Islamic activity is being uncovered.
“[As] a licensed security officer, Mateen also had a statewide firearms license,” an ATF official divulged, according to Fox News. “He purchased two guns — a handgun and a long gun — legally during the week before the shooting.”
More clues about Mateen’s jihadist ties are expected to be found.
“The FBI was scouring Mateen's cellphone and electronic devices on Sunday afternoon to identify any possible terrorist connections,” Fox News reports. “This includes searching for any traces of propaganda, scrubbing of his web browsing history, and running down communications with individuals via social media and mobile messaging apps.”
Six trauma surgeons were called in to the Orlando Regional Medical Center to treat the dozens of wounded shooting victims.
“[Many of the wounded were] critically ill,” Dr. Michael Cheatham told The Associated Press. “I think we will see the death toll rise.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared Orange County a state of emergency after the attack — before asking Americans from coast to coast to observe a moment of silence Sunday at 6 p.m.
"This is an attack on our people," Scott posted on Twitter at 11:40 a.m. "It's an attack on Orlando. It's an attack on FL. It's an attack on America. It's an attack on all of us."
According to Orlando Police Department Chief John Mina, Mateen — who wielded an “assault-type rifle” and a handgun — was in a gunfight with police officers outside of the club before he returned inside and unloaded more shots before taking a number of hostages.
"It appears he was organized and well-prepared," Mina insisted.
Even though officials attest that Mateen spoke with the police during their standoff, the nature of the communication was not divulged.
The nightclub’s raid reportedly involved 11 officers — one of whom was injured by a bullet that initially hit his Kevlar helmet, which is said to have saved his life.
An eyewitness account says that pandemonium broke out when the sound of several gunshots cracked through the Pulse. At about 2 a.m., the nightclub sent out a warning Facebook post.
“Everyone get out of pulse and keep running,” its Facebook page read.
The owner of the Pulse commented on the horrific incident later.
“[I am] devastated by the horrific events that have taken place today,” Barbara Roma declared in a statement. “Pulse, and the men and women who work there, have been my family for nearly 15 years. From the beginning, Pulse has served as a place of love and acceptance for the LGTQ community. I want to express my profound sadness and condolences to all who have lost loved ones."
While trying to contact her 30-year-old son Eddie, Mina Justice was waiting outside the Pulse early Sunday morning. Her son texted her that he ran into the restroom with others at the club, where he was hiding. His next text said, “He’s coming.”
Justice then shared the following text from her son.
“He has us, and he’s in here with us,” Eddie texted next, which his mom said was the last conversation she had with him.
One man who was in one of the back rooms in the club said he saw a man holding a gun enter the room.
"I heard 20, 40, 50 shots," Jon Alamo recounted. "The music stopped."
Another clubber said everything took place right before the Pulse closed for the night.
"Everybody was drinking their last sip," Rob Rick shared.