Terror returns to US shores with gay club massacre

June 13, 2016 8:51 am
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Police investigate at the Pulse nightclub, the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016/AFP
Police investigate at the Pulse nightclub, the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016/AFP

, ORLANDO, Florida, Jun 13 – US anti-terror strategy was under new scrutiny after a gunman previously cleared of jihadist ties launched a hate-fueled rampage in a Florida gay club that left 50 dead.

As the worst mass shooting in modern US history erupted Sunday, Orlando police blasted their way into the Pulse nightspot and shot the attacker dead.

Overview
  • Mateen was born to Afghan parents in New York in 1986 and lived in Port St Lucie, Florida, about a two hour drive from Orlando
  • In 2013, he was probed by the bureau after making inflammatory comments to co-workers that suggested terrorist ties
  • Later, in 2014, he was again questioned by agents investigating his contacts with Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a fellow Floridian

The murderous assault triggered grief but also defiance in the gay and lesbian community, and more than 100,000 marched in a planned Los Angeles Gay Pride parade.

In New York, the Tony Awards for musical theatre went ahead as planned but were dedicated to the victims of the massacre.

“We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said, as the FBI investigated the shooter.

Prominent US Muslim figures, Pope Francis and world leaders condemned the attack, which is being treated as the worst act of terror on US soil since September 11, 2001.

The FBI admitted that 29-year-old Omar Mateen had previously been investigated — but cleared — for ties to a US suicide bomber.

Special Agent Ronald Hopper also said Mateen was reported to have made a 911 call pledging allegiance to IS shortly before the massacre.

Meanwhile, the IS-linked news agency Amaq said without providing evidence that one of its fighters carried out the attack.

But the group, which has previously been a conduit for Islamic State statements cited only “a source,” leading experts to doubt the claim.

Terrified survivors described how the gunman raked club-goers with bullets, prompting a police SWAT team to storm the venue.

Mateen was born to Afghan parents in New York in 1986 and lived in Port St Lucie, Florida, about a two hour drive from Orlando.

His father Mir Seddique told NBC News his son may have been motivated by homophobia, insisting: “This had nothing to do with religion.”

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