- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The wife of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen broke her silence for the first time since the June mass shooting, insisting that she was “unaware” of his plans and describing the abuse she endured during their marriage.

Noor Salman told The New York Times that although she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos, she did not suspect he had been radicalized because he had previously been investigated by the FBI and cleared.

Mateen carried out the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub on June 12, killing 49 people and injured 53 others. After the shooting, investigators sought to find out whether others were involved in planning for or carrying out the plot and focused on learning what Ms. Salman knew.

“I was unaware of everything,” she said. “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.”

She told The New York Times that it was the morning after the attack that she learned her husband was responsible for the attack and had been killed by law enforcement.

“How can someone be capable of that?” she said.

The FBI placed Mateen on a watch list in 2013 after he claimed to coworkers at the private security firm that employed him that he had family connections to al Qaeda. A year later, his name was brought up to investigators a second time as they probed a suicide bomber from Florida and learned that Mateen had previously attended the same mosque as the bomber and had been known to watch Anwar al-Awlaki videos in the past.

Ms. Salman said when her husband told her to mind her own business, in regard to the videos, she did.

“The FBI let him go,” she said. The 30-year-old also described her abusive relationship with Mateen, saying that shortly after they met through an online dating site and were married that his behavior toward her dramatically changed. Ms. Salman said Mateen used to pull her hair and choke her, and once punched her in the shoulder while she was pregnant with their son. She said Mateen threatened that if she left him, he would get custody of the boy.

She also told the newspaper that since the massacre that she’s moved three times to avoid media attention and has had to rely on help from family to take care of the 3-year-son she had with Mateen.

“I just want people to know that I am human. I am a mother,” she told the Times.

On the night of the shooting, Ms. Salman told The Times that Mateen said he wouldn’t be home for dinner because he was visiting a friend. He left their Fort Pierce, Florida, condo and drove two hours to the Orlando nightclub where he carried out the terrorist attack.

During an hourslong standoff with law enforcement at the club, Mateen spoke with negotiators and proclaimed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State. Audio recordings of the conversations were released Monday by Orlando officials. Ms. Salman said that unbeknownst to her, she was also in contact with her husband as he was carrying out the attack.

Ms. Salman told the newspaper that he sent her a text message sometime after 4 a.m. asking if she had seen what had happened. When she replied she had not, he sent one final text message: “I love you babe.”

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