Massacre case of ‘homegrown extremism’, says Obama
United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama said yesterday that there is “no clear evidence” that the shooter who carried out the biggest mass killing in the country’s history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was directed by an overseas terrorist group.
“It appears the shooter was informed by extremist information disseminated over the internet,” Obama told reporters at the White House.
He said that the suspected shooter, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, a 29-year-old American Muslim born to Afghan parents, represented a “kind of homegrown extremism that we’ve been concerned about for a long time.” But Obama said “it does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance” to Islamic State in calls to Orlando’s 911 emergency line.
Obama said law enforcement officials are “still at the preliminary stage” of their investigation and that there is still “a lot more that we have to learn.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation chief, James Comey said, “We’re going through the killer’s life,” including his use of Internet.
Obama, speaking the day after 49 people were gunned down at the Pulse nightclub and another 53 wounded, said the shooter legally bought the weapons used in the attack. He said one of the weapons used in the rampage was “a handgun with a lot of clips.” Authorities said Mateen, who was later killed by police, sprayed round after round at late-night revelers in the club with a semi-automatic rifle.
“It was not difficult for him to obtain these kinds of weapons,” said Obama, who has unsuccessfully fought for tighter gun laws in the U.S.
“This is going to be something we have to grapple with.” He said the U.S. is “so lax” in the ease with which disturbed people bent on carrying out armed mayhem can purchase weapons.
Obama condemned Islamic terrorists and “radical nihilistic organisations” that target gays and lesbians, “something that is threatening to them.”
The president offered his update on the investigation hours after authorities in Orlando said they are working on a hundred leads to try to determine if the suspected shooter at a gay nightclub had help in carrying out the attack.
“There may be prosecutions down the road,” FBI agent Paul Wysopal told reporters in the southeastern U.S. city. “No stone will be left unturned.”
Authorities say that during his attack on the club, Mateen called the Orlando emergency line and vowed fealty to Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and also referenced the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people.
U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said that others who may have had connections to Mateen are being investigated, but that there is “no reason to believe” the public may be in further danger. The FBI twice in recent years questioned Mateen about possible connections with terrorist groups but found nothing to warrant any charges.
Police ended the early Sunday mayhem at Pulse after three hours, shooting Mateen to death after heavily armed police tactical units raided the club, which calls itself the “hottest gay bar in Orlando.”
Orlando police chief, John Mina, said the raid “saved many, many lives.” He said one policeman was hit in the head by one of the gunman’s shots, but that his Kevlar helmet saved his life. Officials said two of the gunman’s weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle, were found in the club and a third located in his car.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said officials have identified all but one of the 49 victims and so far have been able to reach half of their families to let them know of the deaths of their loved ones. Florida Governor Rick Scott said many of the victims were residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. island territory off the southeastern U.S. coast and a short flight from Florida.
On Sunday night, thousands of people, gay and straight, held candlelight vigils in several major cities across the U.S. for the Orlando victims.