- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a mass shooting in Florida that left 50 people dead and over 50 wounded.

“The attack that targeted a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida … was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” according to a tweet sent out by the Amaq Agency, an online propaganda operation run by Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Omar Siddiqui Mateen, a 29-year old Afghan-American, reportedly opened fire on patrons at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, before being killed in a shootout with police. Before the attack, which now stands as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, Mateen reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call to law enforcement authorities.

In a Sunday afternoon press conference from the White House, President Obama said the FBI was characterizing the attack as an “act of terror” but did not directly link the shootings to Islamic State.

“We are still learning all the facts,” he said. “This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.”

Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, with knowledge of the ongoing investigation into the Orlando shootings told Reuters on Sunday that no evidence showing a direct link between Mateen, Islamic State or any other militant group has come up.

Federal authorities reportedly are attempting to trace the origins of two weapons used by the gunman, which include an AR-15 rifle and handgun.

The Orlando massacre is the first terrorist attack on American soil officially claimed by Islamic State.

In San Bernardino, California, in December, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook, killed 14 people and wounded more than 20 others in a mass shooting before being gunned down by local authorities shortly after the attack.

The subsequent FBI investigation determined that both Malik and Farook had been self radicalized before the shooting. But federal investigators could not prove either had been in direct communication with Islamic State, al Qaeda or other radical militant groups.

Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Orlando shooting comes amid a recent call by ISIS leaders to ratchet up attacks in the West during the holy month of Ramadan.

“Here [the month of] Ramadan has come. The month of jihad, fighting, and conquests. Get ready and be prepared and let each of you make sure to spend it as a conqueror for the sake of Allah and seek what Allah has preserved for you, and make it a month of wrath against the kuffar [infidels] everywhere,” according to a May statement by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani.

Adnani called on jihadists to attack civilians target, adding “the smallest bit of work that you can carry out in their countries is far better and beloved to us than any major work [i.e. operations] here,” referring to the terror group’s ongoing fight against U.S.-backed local forces in Iraq and Syria.

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