Considered as the deadliest mass shooting in American history, a gunman killed 50 people and injured 53 in a gay nightclub in the Florida’s tourist hub Orlando before being shot dead by police.
“It is with great sadness I share that we not have 20 but 50 casualties (dead), in addition to the shooter. There are another 53 …hospitalized,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
President Barack Obama has directed federal authorities to help Orlando shooting investigation, the White House said in a statement.
FBI Officials described the attack as a “terrorism related incident” and cautioned that the suspected Islamist connection required further investigation. The shooter was identified as Omar S. Mateen, having leanings towards the Islamic State militants.
“Do we consider this an act of terrorism? Absolutely, we are investigating this from all parties’ perspective as an act of terrorism,” said Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
According to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the attack is deadliest single shooting incident in United States history after since 2007.
“Today we’re dealing with something that we never imagined and is unimaginable,” Dyer said.
The initial exchange of fire with the suspect started at 2 a.m on Sunday. A police officer working as a security guard inside the Pulse nightclub fire with Omar immediately after Omar (Suspect) started firing.
A hostage situation developed in minutes, and three hours later a squad of officers stormed the club and shot dead the gunman. It was unclear when the gunman shot the victims.
The attacker was carrying an assault rifle and a handgun, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. He was also carrying an unidentified “device”, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said earlier. The FBI said it was still trying to pin down whether the mass shooting was a hate crime against gays or a terrorist act.