The Vatican describes the incident as "homicidal folly and senseless hatred". The attack against gay nightclub The Pulse saw 50 people killed and at least 53 wounded. The attacker was a 29-year-old American of Afghan descent. Omar Mateen reportedly said he was affiliated with the Islamic state. However, doubts persist as to the true reason for the act. Meanwhile, the attack fuels political controversies.
Orlando (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis is shaken by the “terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims”. This has caused “the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred’, this according to a statement released by the Holy See Press Office Director, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, following yesterday’s attack against The Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 50 people dead and at least 53 wounded.
“Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion,” the statement said. He also shares “in their indescribable suffering”, hoping that “ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace”.
Omar Mateen (pictured), author of the worst mass murder in recent US history, is an American citizen of Afghan descent with allegedly Jihadi sympathies. He was born in New York and lived in Florida.
What is known so far is that the FBI had investigated the 29-year-old for possible links with extremist circles, but his name was not on a terrorism watch list. He killed scores of people before he was shot dead by police.
The attack began at about 2:00 am local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday. There was an exchange of fire with a police officer working at the club, after which the suspect took hostages.
At 5:00 am, a police assault team went into the club after police received text messages and phone calls from some of the hostages. Mateen was killed in an exchange of fire.
States of emergency have been declared in the city of Orlando and surrounding Orange County.
So far, 21 victims have been named: 17 men and four women.
The gunman’s father, Seddique Mateen, said that he did not know that his son had "hatred in his heart", or whether he targeted the gay community or responded to the Islamic State (IS) group, which had called for attacks on the West during Ramadan. However, for him religion was not behind the shooting. He had earlier said his son was angered after seeing two men kissing in Miami.
Divorced from his wife who had accused him of spousal abuse, he was interviewed by the FBI twice in 2013-14 after he made "inflammatory remarks" to a colleague, before closing its investigation. Mateen legally purchased several guns in the past few days.
An FBI spokesman said that the gunman had called the emergency services before the attack and sworn allegiance to IS. Pro-IS website claimed that Omar was an IS fighter, but doubts remain as to his motive to attack a gay-friendly nightclub.
US President Barack Obama described the attack as "an act of terror and an act of hate", calling for more gun control.
The Democratic candidate for the White House Hillary Clinton reached out to the LGBT community. Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, said Mr Obama should step down for refusing to use the words "radical Islam" when condemning the attack.
According to the crowd-sourced Mass Shooting Tracker, the US suffered 372 mass shootings last year, defined as a single incident that kills or injures four or more people. Some 475 people were killed and 1,870 wounded.