- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2017

The widow of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen was arrested Monday and will face federal charges related to her husband’s deadly terrorist attack last summer, U.S. law enforcement authorities confirmed.

Noor Salman was taken into custody in California in connection with the June 12 rampage, and will face charges including obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting.

Mateen opened fire inside the Pulse gay nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. In the days after the deadly massacre, investigators sought to find out whether others were involved in carrying out or planning the attack, and focused on learning what Ms. Salman knew about her husband’s plans.

Ms. Salman, who broke her silence about the incident in a November interview with The New York Times, previously said she had known that her husband watched jihadi videos and had accompanied him to purchase firearms ammunition, but that she was “unaware” of his plans to attack the nightclub.

She said that because her husband previously had been investigated and cleared by the FBI, she did not suspect he had been radicalized. Ms. Salman also detailed physical abuse by Mateen, whom she had married in 2011.

Holding frightened clubgoers hostage inside the club during a three-hour standoff with police, Mateen — a 29-year-old American-born Muslim — pledged allegiance to the Islamic State as he spoke by phone with a hostage negotiator.

He also reportedly exchanged text messages with his wife — writing her to ask whether she had seen what was happening. After she said she had not, he wrote in a final text message to her “I love you babe.”

Mateen was killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers when they stormed the club.

Authorities said Ms. Salman was arrested by FBI agents in the San Francisco area, where she moved with family after the attack, and is expected to make an initial appearance in a federal court in Oakland on Tuesday.

An attorney for Ms. Salman said in a statement Monday that her client “had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night.”

“Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands,” said attorney Linda Moreno. “We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person.”

Court documents that would explain the charges and evidence against Ms. Salman are not yet public, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the charges.

“We said from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine not just why did he take these actions — but who else knew about them? Was anyone else involved?” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said Monday in an MSNBC interview.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina provided some additional details on the nature of the charges in a statement issued Monday. Ms. Salman will be brought back to Florida for prosecution, and she will face federal charges including obstruction of justice, and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization, he said.

“Federal authorities have been working tirelessly on this case for more than seven months, and we are grateful that they have seen to it that some measure of justice will be served in this act of terror that has affected our community so deeply,” Chief Mina said. “Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones. But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”

Mateen had been placed on an FBI watch list in 2013 after he claimed to co-workers 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 al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki videos in the past.

Investigators closed both probes within a matter of months without bringing any charges against Mateen.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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