Orlando, Fla. (AP) — A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub early Sunday, killing at least 50 people before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. It was the worst mass shooting in American history.
Authorities were investigating it as an act of terrorism.
At least 53 other people were hospitalized, most in critical condition, officials said. A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb.
Mayor Buddy Dyer said all of the dead were killed with the assault rifle.
“There’s blood everywhere,” Dyer said.
The suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the gay club known as Pulse around 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside. The gunman then went back inside and took hostages, Police Chief John Mina said.
Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages.
Jackie Smith, who was inside the club, said two friends next to her were shot.
“Some guy walked in and started shooting everybody. He had an automatic rifle, so nobody stood a chance,” Smith said. “I just tried to get out of there.”
In addition to the guns, the shooter also had some sort of “suspicious device,” Mina said.
Authorities were looking into whether the attack was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter acted alone, according to Danny Banks, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
The suspect was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Rep. Alan Grayson named the shooter, citing law enforcement officials. A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation also confirmed the name. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
FBI agent Ron Hopper said there was no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.
When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said authorities had “suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”
Authorities said they had secured the suspect’s vehicle, a van, right outside the club.
Relatives and friends, many in tears, gathered outside the hospital to learn whether their loved ones were among the dead or wounded.
Smith did not know the conditions of her friends and came out of the hospital and burst into tears.
The wounded included one police officer who was shot and suffered injuries to his face, officials said.
Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting. Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.
A woman who was outside the dance club early Sunday was trying to contact her 30-year-old son, Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her:”He’s coming.”
“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,'” Mina Justice said. “That was the last conversation.”
Pulse posted on its own Facebook page around 2 a.m.: “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” Just before 6 a.m., the club posted an update: “As soon as we have any information, we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”
Local, state and federal agencies were investigating.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack and asked for regular updates on the investigation, the White House said.
The attack follows the fatal shooting late Friday of 22 -year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando by a 27-year-old Florida man who later killed himself. Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on “The Voice.”
Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club’s rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.
“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” Alamo said. “The music stopped.”
Club-goer Rob Rick said the shooting started just before closing time.
“Everybody was drinking their last sip,” he said.
He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth. A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.
Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged and police urged people to back away from the club. He saw the wounded being tended to across the street.
“I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I just dropped down. I just said, ‘Please, please, please, I want to make it out,'” he said. “And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don’t get shot.”
Zabarmari Massacre: Buhari to Provide More Resources for the Nigerian Military
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to provide more resources to the military in the aftermath of the Zabarmari massacre.
On Saturday, Boko Haram killed 43 people with around 70 people still missing in Zabarmari, a village in Borno State.
Reacting to the massacre, Buhari, through his official Twitter handle @MBuhari said “Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of Nigerians. Everything is secondary when security is at stake. I will ensure that more resources are made available to the military and other security agencies to prosecute the war against terrorism.
“As we mourn all the lives lost in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis, until we root out the terrorists.
“We will intensify our cooperation with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels, to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“As I noted earlier, the massacre by Boko Haram in Zabarmari is nothing short of senseless, barbaric, gruesome and cowardly. It reinforces our resolve to root out all forms of insurgency and insecurity not just in Borno but everywhere across Nigeria.”
Boko Haram Kills Rice Farmers in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria
Rice farmers were killed on Saturday morning in the Northeast Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants, Boko Haram, according to a Reuters Report.
The report also noted that 30 of the people killed were beheaded while over a dozen others were still missing.
However, resident of the Zambarmari Village where the attacks took place said a total of 70 people were feared dead.
Another resident and Amnesty International were quoted as saying at least 10 women were among those missing.
In another statement by Edward Kallon, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, it was armed men on motorcycles that led the brutal attack on civilians harvesting their fields.
“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon stated.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added, noting that several women are believed to have been kidnapped.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice,” Kallon said.
On Sunday, Governor Babaganan Umara Zulum of Borno State, who was at the burial told journalists that at least 70 farmers were killed on Saturday.
The Governor, therefore, called on the Federal Government to recruit more Civilian Joint Task Force members, Soldiers and civil defence fighters to protect farmers in the region.
He added that people are facing desperate choices.
“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation, on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.
In The Fight Against Corruption, No Individual is Bigger Than The State – Buhari
In response to the suspended acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, President Muhammed Buhari, lamented that the anti-corruption war becomes endangered “when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves.”
Buhari, whose vision is to put an end to corruption in Nigeria, believed that every aspect of the nation’s life is enshrined in corruption and it’s of major concern when leaders of institutions saddled with the mandate to fight the menace are found in the waves of the corruption they claimed to be fighting.
This act is a great abomination not only because it strikes at the root but it also trivialises and undermines the anti-corruption crusade itself, the President explained.
He further said that in a bid to put an end to this great abomination, he had set up Ayo Salami Panel to unravel the mystery behind the mystique of Magu’s alleged involvement in corruption that his administration is fighting.
Buhari said that his administration is ready and willing to go all out in the fight against corruption, and no one is too big nor above the law to become a victim of anti-graft’s sledgehammer.
The president said, “However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touch on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.
“It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.
“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
“We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”
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