Authorities say Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Fla., killed 50 people and injured 53 others early Sunday morning. ISIS has claimed responsibility for his actions, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, and the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Twenty minutes into the attack, Omar Mateen dialed 9-1-1 and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and mentioned the Boston bomber. After a three-hour confrontation with local police forces, during which he held a group of people hostage, he was shot dead by a SWAT team.
ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Amaq News Agency, ISIS’s official news arm.
“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” Amaq News Agency said.
Omar Mateen was born in New York and is of Afghani descent. His ex-wife said he was unstable and was abusive towards her during the few months they were married.
“He was not a stable person,” she told The Washington Post under the condition of anonymity. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”
Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, claimed that his son’s actions had “nothing to do with religion,” and said his son was angered several months ago after he saw two men kissing.
Seddique Mateen, who hosted a talk show on an Afghani news channel that broadcasts from California, has publicly spoken in support of the Afghan Taliban and denounced the Pakistani government. Episodes of the show have been uploaded to a YouTube channel under Seddique Mateen’s name. Contact information featured on the show was traced to the Mateens’ Florida residence, The Washington Post reported.
Another friend described Omar Mateen to WaPo as being “very religious,” and said he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which is considered to an important part of the Muslim faith.
The FBI had investigated Omar Mateen twice, once in 2013 and again in 2014, as a person of interest whom they suspected had connections to a known terrorist, The Daily Beast reported. The FBI subsequently dropped its investigations into Mateen when the probes resulted in nothing to warrant further examination.
In a news conference Sunday, President Obama called the Orlando shooting an act of terror and hate.
“Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” Obama said. “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.”
Mateen used a rifle and a handgun, which authorities say he purchased legally in the days leading up to the attack.
The United States has failed to come up with a response that actually targets the cause of terrorist attacks perpetuated by radicalized lone wolves, said Federalist publisher Ben Domenech on CBS’s “Face The Nation” today.
“Evil men will always exist, they will do evil things,” Domenech said. “The victory over evil is not something that’s within our capacity to grasp and so it’s the fight that counts, and I think in this context that fight is an ideological fight more than it is over ‘policy X’ or ‘policy Y’ that wouldn’t have removed small arms from this man’s hands and spared these lives.”
“You have these over and over again,” Domenech said. “These small arms massacres and then a policy response that I think the people feel is either insufficient or actually actually targets the victims — taking guns out of their hands, or engaging in policies that are not actually going to prevent these sorts of things in the future.”
“I’m not sure that we’ve figured out a response to this and I think that helps these active folks in the Middle East who encourage these types of terrorist attacks,” he said.