The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Orlando gay club massacre and says the gunman that slaughtered at least 50 people was one of its fighters.
Shooter Omar Mateen, 29, from Port St. Lucie in Florida, opened fire at Pulse night club in the early hours of this morning.
At least 50 people were killed and 53 others were injured in the shooting in the deadliest mass shooting in US history and the first time ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack US soil.
A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb.
Shortly before the attack, Mateen, who was born in New York to Afghan parents, called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, law enforcement officials told NBC News.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said on Sunday that the Islamist militant group was responsible for the shooting.
‘The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,’ Amaq said.
California congressman Adam Schiff, who serves as top Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN: ‘What I’ve heard from the Department of Homeland Security this morning is that, according to local police, he made a pledge of allegiance to ISIL (ISIS).’
He said the shooting was ‘highly indicative of an ISIL-inspired attack’.
During the attack, Mateen alsoreferenced the brothers who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, a Massachusetts State Police spokesman said on Sunday.
‘During a conference call with federal law enforcement officials a short time ago, Massachusetts State Police and other local law enforcement authorities learned that the Orlando nightclub gunman, during his rampage, pledged allegiance to ISIS and referenced the Tsarnaev brothers,’ state police spokesman David Procopio said in an e-mail.
The Tsarnaev brothers killed three people and injured more than 260 in the April 15, 2013, attack. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died four days later during a gunbattle with police while Dzhokhar Tsaranev, now 22, has been sentenced to death for his role in the attack.
However Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News his son became angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami several months ago.
‘This has nothing to do with religion,’ he said. ‘We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.’
An FBI spokesman said the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
US citizen Mateen, who was shot dead by officers, entered the nightclub wielding an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun.
Writing on Facebook, Pulse urged party-goers to ‘get out and keep running’ as bullets started flying at around 2am local time.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the club around 2am, then went back inside and took hostages.
There were about 320 people inside the club at the time of the shootings and about 100 people were taken hostage.
At around 5am authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages. Nine hero officers used a ‘controlled explosion’ to distract the shooter before fatally shooting him and were able to rescue about 30 hostages who were hiding in the bathroom of the club.
During the gunfire, an officer was shot, but he was saved by his helmet.
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Pictured: US citizen Omar Mateen, 29, the suspected Islamic extremist who slaughtered at least 50 people inside a gay club in Orlando
Attack: A woman sits on the ground outside the club while another party-goer, whose legs are covered in blood, stands beside her
Response: Emergency services are pictured at the scene outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida following this morning’s shooting
Distraught: A woman sits outside the nightclub following the mass shooting. Around 50 people were killed by the suspected gunman
Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during following the shooting at Pulse nightclub
Ray Rivera, a DJ at Pulse Orlando nightclub, is consoled by a friend outside of the Orlando Police Department following the shooting
Demetrice Naulings (left) sobs outside the Orlando Police Headquarters where police are interviewing witnesses. Right: People wait outside the emergency entrance of the Orlando Regional Medical Center hospital after the shooting at Pulse gay club
Friends and family members embrace outside Orlando Police Headquarters following the deadly shooting in the early hours of this morning
SWAT: Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT members arrive at the scene of the fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando
Fatalities: At least 50 people were killed and 53 others were injured in the shooting. Pictured: An Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT member
Police, army and FBI surround the club after a suspected Islamic extremist wielding an assault rifle and a handgun killed about 50 people
An FBI spokesman said the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Pictured: Forensics at the scene of the shooting
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