US President Barack Obama has described the deadly mass shooting in Orlando as an ‘act of terror and an act of hate.’ The gunman who killed 49 people at a gay night club was previously known to the FBI.
Messages of solidarity with the LGBT community and condemnation of the attack continued to pour in from political and religious leaders from around the world into the early hours of Monday morning.
US President Barack Obama led the reactions, saying that the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida was the “most deadly shooting in American history.”
A long-time campaigner for stricter gun laws, Obama added that the “brutal murder of dozens of innocent people” was yet another reminder of how easy it is to access a deadly weapon in the US.
“We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be,” he said. “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Forty-nine killed and the shooter, 53 injured
Omar Mateen, a US citizen with Afghan roots, opened fire at the gay nightclub early Sunday morning. At least 49 people were killed and 53 others injured. Seven of the victims have so far been named – Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Edward Sotomayor Jr, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Peter O Gonzalez-Cruz and Luis S Vielma.
The 29-year-old gunman was killed at the scene in an exchange of fire with 11 police officers.
A law enforcement official told the AP news agency that the gunman had made a call to the emergency services from the club, claiming allegiance to the leader of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. IS has made a claim of responsibility for the attack via a website.
‘This is a hate crime’
In light of the the suspected links to IS, the head of a prominent US Muslim advocacy group strongly condemned the massacre, calling IS members an “aberration.”
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also called for unity and urged politicians not to “exploit” Sunday’s tragedy.
“This is a hate crime. Plain and simple,” Awad told a news conference, adding that it “violates our principles as Americans and as Muslims.”
“Let me be clear, we have no tolerance for extremism of any kind,” he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also expressed his condolences to the victims of the attack. “I am shocked by the murderous attack in Orlando. We mourn the victims. Our thoughts are with our friends in the USA,” Steinmeier said in a tweet.