Florida killings suspected to be terror act

At least 50 people were killed and 53 wounded in a mass shooting — described as an act of terrorism — by a gunman armed with an assault rifle and a handgun at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, late Saturday.

The shooter, who was killed in a gunfight with police SWAT teams, was identified by officials as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, a resident of St. Lucie County, Florida. But there was still no word about his motives and affiliations.

“We have cleared the building, and it is with great sadness that I share we have not 20 but 50 casualties in addition to the shooter,” Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer told a news briefing, raising the death toll from 20 previously.

Asked at a news briefing if the gunman had links to jihadist terror groups, FBI assistant agent in-charge of the area, Ron Hopper, said: “At this time we’re looking at all angles right now.”

“We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings towards that, that particular ideology. But right now we can’t say definitively so we’re still running everything around.”

The shooting was being investigated as a “terror incident”.

If confirmed, this will be the second terrorist attack on the US mainland after the September 11, 2001 attacks — the first was in San Bernardino, California, on December 2, 2015, when a married couple of Pakistani descent gunned down 14 people before being killed in a gunfight with law enforcement officers.

The White House said in a statement the President had been briefed about the shooting. And that he had “asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community”.

Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump, who had called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US after the San Bernardino attack, was more restrained in his remarks Sunday.

He said in a tweet, “Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.” But he may ratchet up the rhetoric if a link to Islamic terrorism was indeed established.