Some victims of the mass shooting in the United States are being buried this weekend.
Forty-nine people were shot to death Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The gunman, Omar Mateen, also was killed.
More than 50 other people were wounded.
About 300 people were inside the Pulse nightclub at the time of the attack. Mateen exchanged gunfire with a security guard, entered the building and then took hostages, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said.
About three hours later, law enforcement officials sent in a special police team to rescue the hostages. Officers shot and killed Mateen. Police say he had an assault rifle and a handgun.
During the early morning hours, Mateen used Facebook to search the terms “Pulse Orlando” and “shooting” from inside the nightclub.
In earlier Facebook posts, he expressed support for Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and called for an end to U.S. and Russian bombings of IS positions.
Mateen was born in New York and was a U.S. citizen. His parents are from Afghanistan. The gunman had worked as a security guard since 2007.
A federal agent said he bought at least two guns legally in the week before the attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned him earlier after reports that he had made comments in support for the Islamic State.
FBI Director James Comey told reporters on Monday federal agents had questioned Mateen in 2013 and 2014. Investigators also followed him and had studied his communications and contacts.
But officials took no action against him because the FBI did not find any evidence of criminal activity.
Comey said Mateen had “strong indications of radicalization” and may have been “inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.”
But he added that the FBI has so far found no evidence the Orlando gunman was assisted or supported by any foreign terror groups.
FBI officials say Mateen’s wife had some knowledge of his plans to attack the nightclub. One investigator said Noor Zahi Salman went with her husband on a “reconnaissance” mission to the nightclub between June 5th and 9th.
Law enforcement officials told reporters that Salman warned her husband not to carry out the attack as he left for Orlando last Saturday.
Salman was born in the United States to Palestinian parents. She was Mateen’s second wife and the mother of their 3-year-old son.
On Monday, the Islamic State called Omar Mateen “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.” However, the group did not make any claim of responsibility for the nightclub attack.
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, told NBC News that he did not believe the attack was connected to religion. He suggested it was more likely an act of homophobia. He said his son had expressed deep anger when he saw two men kissing recently.
President Barack Obama went to Orlando Thursday and met with some of the wounded and with the families of those who were killed. He also spoke with some of the police officers who helped end the shooting, emergency medical workers and doctors who treated the wounded.
Obama repeated his earlier statements that the attack was both an act of terrorism and an act of hate.
“This was an attack on the LGBT community. Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone -- no matter who you are or who you love.”
Obama added that that the government would “be relentless” against terrorist groups like Islamic State and al-Qaida.
“We are going to destroy them. We are going to disrupt their networks and their financing and the flow of fighters in and out of war theaters. We’re going to disrupt their propaganda that poisons so many minds around the world.”
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Words in This Story
gay – adj. sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex
nightclub – n. a place that is open at night, has music, dancing, or a show and usually serves food and alcoholic drinks
reconnaissance – adj. activity in which information is gathered about people or a place
mission – n. a task or job that someone is given to do
caliphate – n. the area ruled by a caliph, a religious leader
homophobia – n. hatred or abuse of homosexuals
kiss – v. to touch (someone) with your lips as a greeting or as a way of showing love or sexual attraction
LGBT – expression/acronym Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender
relentless – adj. continuing without becoming weaker, less severe, etc.; remaining determined