A terrorist opened fire at a nightclub in Orlando, US early on Sunday morning, leaving 50 dead and 53 wounded. The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old gunman, entered Pulse, a popular gay nightclub, at around 2 a.m. on Sunday and began to open fire with an assault rifle and a handgun. Roughly one-third of the club’s patrons were shot and either killed or severely wounded. The remaining occupants fled to the streets or hid in bathrooms.
When police arrived on the scene, Mr. Mateen took refuge in a bathroom and held four or five hostages, according to Orlando police. While police negotiators began speaking to the shooter, officers were able to rescue dozens of people still in the club.
While speaking with the negotiators, Mr. Mateen began to talk about explosives and his allegiance to the Islamic State. In order to avoid a potential explosion, officers breached the bathroom where the gunman was holed up and killed him in a shootout. Police have since identified all but one of the victims.
In the wake of the attack, Orlando and cities across the country have held vigils for the deceased in a display of solidarity.
President Barack Obama called the attack “an act of terror and hate,” adding that Americans were united in “grief, outrage and resolve to defend our people.”
While addressing media about the terrorist, Mr. Obama said, “It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the Internet.”
The president said that while Mr. Mateen was loyal to the Islamic State, there is no evidence proving that he was instructed by the terrorist organization to carry out the attack.
“At this stage we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally. It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL.”
He said, however, that the investigation is being treated as a terrorist investigation.
Mr. Obama also called for stricter gun laws, saying that the attack was “a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or a house of worship, or a movie theater, or a nightclub,” referring to past mass shootings in the country.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that Mr. Mateen purchased his weapons legally in the state of Florida, where the attack took place.
Investigations have revealed that Mr. Mateen, an American citizen with Afghan parents, was investigated twice by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his potential links to Islamic terrorist groups, but the investigations were eventually dropped.
The Orlando attack is the second mass shooting in the US committed by Islamic State sympathizers, the first of which occurred in December 2015 when a married couple killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.