The suspected Islamic extremist who slaughtered at least 50 people after taking party-goers hostage inside a gay club in Orlando was was ‘angry after seeing two men kissing’.
Law enforcement sources have identified the shooter, who was wielding an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun, as US citizen Omar Mateen, 29, from Port St. Lucie in Florida.
The gunman, who was born to Afghan parents, was carrying a suspicious device, possibly a suicide vest, when he opened fire on the dance floor inside Pulse in the early hours of this morning.
At least 50 people were killed and 53 others were injured in the shooting in the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
An FBI spokesman said the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism, adding that they are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.
The FBI believe the gunman, who was shot dead by officers, may have ‘leanings to radical Islamic terrorism’.
But his father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News his son became angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami several months ago.
‘This has nothing to do with religion,’ he said. ‘We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.’
Writing on Facebook, Pulse, which described itself as the most prominent gay club in Orlando, urged party-goers to ‘get out and keep running’ as bullets started flying at around 2am local time.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the club around 2am, then went back inside and took hostages. There were about 320 people inside the club at the time of the shootings and about 100 people were taken hostage.
At around 5am authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages. Nine hero officers used a ‘controlled explosion’ to distract the shooter before fatally shooting him and were able to rescue about 30 hostages who were hiding in the bathroom of the club.
During the gunfire, an officer was shot, but he was saved by his helmet. It was thought that at least one hostage had been locked in a bathroom with gunshot wounds.
Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a press conference: ‘Many were saved by the heroic efforts of the men and women of the OPD, the Orange County Sheriffs, Seminal County Sheriff’s office.’
At around 6am local time police tweeted: ‘Pulse Shooting: The shooter inside the club is dead.’
Twitter accounts which claim to be affiliated to the Islamic State have hailed the shooting, although DailyMail.com cannot confirm whether the terror group was behind the attack.
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson identified the shooter as Mateen, citing law enforcement officials in speaking to reporters.
Mateen, father to a three-year-old son, was born in 1986 in New York and was married to Sitora Alisherzoda Yusufiy, who was born in Uzbekistan.
His father told NBC News: ‘We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry.
‘They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, “Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that”. And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.’
Seddique said Mateen had a job in security and attended Indian River State College, as well as having an associates degree in criminal justice.
He was ‘on the radar’ of U.S. officials for some time, law enforcement officials told ABC News. However he was not the target of a specific investigation.
Police were at his apartment in Port St. Lucie this morning. Ken Mascara, Sheriff of Port St. Lucie County, told DailyMail.com: ‘We have sealed the apartment where Mateen was living. The FBI is bringing bomb diffusing equipment.’
Police were at his apartment in Port St. Lucie this morning. Ken Mascara, Sheriff of Port St. Lucie County told DailyMail.com: ‘We have sealed the apartment where Mateen was living. The FBI is bringing bomb diffusing equipment.
Jon Alamo said he was inside the club, which was hosting a Latin-themed night, when a man holding a weapon entered the room he was in.
‘I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,’ Alamo said. ‘The music stopped.’
Club-goer Rob Rick said it happened just before closing time. ‘Everybody was drinking their last sip,’ he said.
He got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth.
A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.
Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he started hearing gunshots.
‘I was thinking, are you kidding me? So I just dropped down. I just said please, please, please, I want to make it out,’ he said. ‘And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don’t get shot.’
He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged, where police were telling people to back away from the club. He saw injured people being tended to across the street.
Mina Justice was outside the club trying to contact her 30-year-old son Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police.
He told her he ran into a bathroom with others to hide. He then texted her: ‘He’s coming.’
She said: ‘The next text said: “He has us, and he’s in here with us”. That was the last conversation.’
Ricardo Almodovar, who was inside the nightclub, said: ‘Shooter opened fire at around 2.00am. People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of us who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran.’
Juan Rivera said on Twitter: ‘I am safely home and hoping everyone gets home safely as well. Never seen so many dead bodies on the floor, God is good that my friends and I didn’t get shot’.
Rosie Feba was in the club with her girlfriend and described the moment the shooting happened.
She told the Orlando Sentinel: ‘Everyone was getting on the floor. I told her [girlfriend] I didn’t think it was real, I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun.’
The police department posted on their official Twitter account: ‘Multiple injuries. Stay away from the area.’
Dozens of officers and medics are at the scene, including Orlando Fire Department’s bomb squad and hazardous material team.
The attack at the gay club during Pride Month, a LGBT celebration.
Puertorrican Drag Queen Kenya Michaels was due to perform at Pulse at midnight. She wrote on Twitter earlier this morning: ‘I want everyone to know I am ok please pray for my friends and family at pulse night club.’
Florida Governor Rick Scott wrote on Twitter: ‘My prayers are with the victims’ families & all those affected by the shooting in Orlando. We will devote every resource available to assist.’
A statement from The White House press secretary released this morning reads: ‘The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.’
This morning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump this morning tweeted: ‘Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.’
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wrote in both English and Spanish: ‘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. -H.’
The shooting took place less than four miles away from where The Voice singer and YouTube star Christina Grimmie, 22, was shot dead by a gunman at The Plaza Live in Orlando on Friday 22.45 local time.
The man, identified as 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl, of St Petersburg, Florida was armed with two handguns, ammunition and a hunting knife.
He later killed himself and his motive was unknown.