The gunman who killed 50 people and wounded 53 others after opening fire at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, is believed to have ties to Islamic terrorism, according to early reports from authorities.
“It’s really early in the investigation, but the indicators are clear that this person did have Islamist leanings,” said Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Asked at an early Sunday press conference if the shooter had ties to radical Islam, the FBI agent in charge said, “We do have suggestions that that individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology.”
“But right now we can’t say definitively, so we’re still running everything to ground,” FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Ron Hopper said at an early Sunday press conference on Fox News.
The Pulse nightclub attack was described at a Sunday press conference as the worst mass shooting in US history, more deadly than the Virginia Tech shooting in which a student shot and killed 32 people in April 2007.
The shooter, identified by WFTV-TV in Orlando as Omar Saddiqui Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida, took about 30 nightclub-goers hostage at the Pulse nightclub before being shot and killed by a tactical unit at about 5 a.m. Sunday. About 42 people are believed to have been injured.
Mr. King stressed that the attacker may have been a psychotic or a “plain lone wolf,” although based on reports from his sources, “I can see now why so early on the FBI agent said why they were leaning toward an Islamist influence here.”
“This is a time when ISIS would be trying to inspire people or actually direct people to carry out attacks, so all of that is being looked into. I think it is too early to say definitively that this is not part of an overall plot, if there is one,” Mr. King.
He also said the shooter is believed to have moved to Florida from Afghanistan and had been trained in the use of weapons.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said during a news conference that the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He says authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.
“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting at Pulse. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.