HAVANA TIMES – At least 50 people died and 53 were injured in a shooting spree early Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando in Florida, said Mayor Buddy Dyer. It was one of the most serious shootings in modern US history, reported dpa news.
Of the 53 injured many are in critical condition after the attack of “unimaginable” dimensions at the club “Pulse,” said the mayor. The attacker was killed in a shootout with police.
US president, Barack Obama, said that the massacre in Orlando is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
“For all we know, this was an act of terrorism, an act of hate,” said the president, who warned however there is still an ongoing investigation into the shooting.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency to facilitate investigations involving local and federal authorities. Likewise Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called on people to donate blood.
Speculation began to circulate in the US media: television broadcasters NBC and CBS and the newspaper “The Washington Post” identified the aggressor, based on legal sources, as Omar M., a US citizen born in 1986 whose parents are from Afghanistan.
A native of New York and Port St. Lucie resident, 170 kilometers southeast of Orlando, he was not on the government’s terrorist list.
The father of the alleged perpetrator, Mir Sediqque, told NBC that the attack “has nothing to do with religion” and pointed instead to homophobic motives. He said his son was angry to see two men kissing some months ago in Miami. “We are saying that we apologize for the incident. We were not aware of anything he was doing. We are in shock like the rest of the country,” he told the station.
The authorities said they are investigating moves in all directions. An FBI agent said that the facts are being investigated as a possible “act of terrorism” and no hypothesis is discarded, even a possible connection with Islamic terrorism. “We are investigating all aspects,” he said.
The president of the Islamic Society of Florida, Mohammad Musri, told the media and the public today not to jump to conclusions.
Orlando Police chief, John Mina, said many corpses were still inside the building and that “it will take time” to clear the crime scene. Mina said that the author had an AR-15 assault rifle, a handgun and an “unknown number of charges”. He noted that he acted alone and that there is no evidence of any foreign assistance.
According to police the attack began at 2:00 (local, 0600 GMT) when a police officer confronted the author in front of the club, who then opened fire. Then two other officers came to the scene, and one of whom was wounded. The attacker then entered the club and began to shoot indiscriminately and took hostages.
A SWAT special force stormed the club three hours later, at 5:00 (9:00 GMT). According to Mina, the police entered with the help of explosives. The assailant was near a doorway and died during the shooting.
“At least 30 hostages were freed in the operation,” said Mina, who also said the assailant was carrying with him a “suspect device” that is being investigated.
On the assailant, police said he is not from Orlando. According to the evidence, “He was well organized and well prepared.” Mina further said that at the moment there is no indication that the assailant had acted out of hatred against homosexuals, although it is also investigating in this direction.
The club was packed and there were more than 300 persons for what was promoted as a Latin party on Saturday night. Witnesses said the shooting began shortly before closing time, when many people were still dancing. The club itself hung on his Facebook page the message: “Get out of Pulse and run.”
Witnesses reported that dozens of shots were fired in quick succession. There were at least 40, said Christopher Hansen to CNN. “At first I thought it was music. Then I saw people thrown to the ground and I too,” he said.
Many fled the building. The TV showed some of the wounded helping other persons out of the club who were still inside. Some of them had blood on his clothes.
Several city hospitals were involved in attending the victims as relatives and friends arrived. A crying mother said: “My son is there I don’t know how it is.”.
Police set up a barrier around the club shortly after the shooting. Trained dogs were brought to the scene to detect explosives.
Another crime shocked people in Orlando on Friday. A man shot singer Christina Grimmie, known for her participation in the TV talent show “The Voice”, and then committed suicide.
The head of the Mina police ruled out any connection between the two crimes.