The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for a mass shooting in which 50 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday at the hands of a gunman identified as Omar Mateen, a US citizen born to Afghan parents.
The group issued a statement on the IS-linked Amaq news agency.
“The attack that targeted a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida and that left more than 100 dead and wounded was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” it said in a terse statement quoting a “source” — and doubling the death toll.
The shooter, US-born Omar Mateen from Port St. Lucie in Florida, is said to have called police during the attack and claimed allegiance to the terror group. According to CNN, Mateen made the call some 20 minutes after the attack began at 2 a.m. local time and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 in which three people were killed and over 200 injured.
Mateen dies in a firefight with police several hours after the attack began.
Mateen worked as a private security guard with a large US company and was a father to a three-year-old boy. There were conflicting reports on whether he was married.
The FBI said that the suspect was not under investigation or surveillance prior to the shootings but that he had been interviewed by agents twice over the past several years.
An FBI spokesman said the bureau first became aware of Mateen in 2013 when he allegedly made “inflammatory comments to colleagues,” prompting an interview with agents.
In 2014, the FBI interviewed Mateen in connection to a known suicide bomber, fellow Floridian Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, also known as Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, who in May 2014 carried out an attack on behalf of al-Qaeda in northern Syria .
In both cases, the FBI said it found no reason to pursue the matter.
President Barack Obama said the massacre was an “act of terror” and an “act of hate,” but that it was premature to ascribe a definitive motive. “In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear and turn against each other,” he said.