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Bloody Saturday

Mon 13 Jun 2016 In: Politics and Religion View at Wayback View at NDHA

On June 12, 2016, ISIS gunman Omar Mir Seddique Mateen opened fire at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing fifty people. It is the worst firearms tragedy in US history, the deadliest Islamist attack since September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Centre tragedy, and the worst deliberate act of violence against LGBT people. The incident started at 2.02 AM, when members of the Orlando Police Department heard shots from within the Pulse nightclub. At 2.09 AM, its management alerted the Pulse patrons to get out of the club altogether and run for their lives. Mateen had a handgun and rifle, as well as another, as yet undisclosed weapon. After police engaged him, Mateen retreated into the nightclub and took hostages. To the credit of the Orlando Police Department and Orlando's emergency services, first response was swift and large numbers of police officers, firefighters and paramedics converged on the property. Almost three hours later, at 5.00 AM, police officers entered the building and killed Mateen, freeing the remaining thirty hostages. The people of Orlando, Florida were also generous in providing blood donors for the survivors of the tragedy and the LGBT Centre of Central Florida is also reportedly providing grief counselling to its survivors. The FBI has set up a hotline to gather additional information about the tragedy and the motives and ideological cues of the gunman. The Pulse nightclub was opened in 2004 after the death of its owner Barbara Poma's gay brother John from AIDS that year. Although the act was initially attributed to a 'lone wolf domestic terrorist,' ISIS/Daesh has claimed responsibility, gloating about the effectiveness of the attack and the death toll involved. There have been fifty fatalities and fifty three serious injuries undergoing surgery, so the death toll may rise. As to why the Pulse nightclub was specifically targeted, it may be because in military and strategic parlance it was a 'soft target.' That means that while there was an officer on duty, the nightclub was relatively underprotected, given that civic authorities might have been expecting ISIS/Daesh to target civic venues or a larger-scale event, such as a sports tournament. This is not to lay blame at the hands of Orlando's finest, given prompt police and emergency response as noted above, even at grave risk to their own lives. So, who is Omar Mateen? The thirty year old was a Muslim American born to Afghan parents. He was married twice, has a child from his first marriage, and a domestic violence accusation from his first wife. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement states that he had no criminal record in that US state. Mateen had bragged about links to "terrorist organisations" and was under FBI surveillance in 2013-14 as a result, but the surveillance ended due to the lack of direct conclusive evidence of involvement with such groups. During the attack, Mateen allegedly called 911 and vowed loyalty to ISIS/Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mateen's father said his son had seen a personal display of affection from a gay couple at a festival, which may have acted as a motive for the grisly tragedy several months later. At the civic authority level, President Barack Obama, Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer have all expressed condolences and Mayor Dyer has declared Orlando in a "state of emergency.' EU President Donald Tusk, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, former Brazilian President Dilma Roussef and Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen have all expressed condolences and horror at the tragedy in Orlando. One notable omission was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who was slammed for gloating about his stance against "radical Islamist terrorism" and saying nothing whatsoever in empathy with the victims of the Orlando tragedy. Mateen's father, Omar Siddique, apologised for his son's actions and said that he and his family were as horrified as other Americans at the tragedy that Mateen had perpetrated. Florida Congressperson Alan Grayson (Democrat) described the event as a large scale hate crime. Other local Muslims, such as Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando Co-ordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned the killings at once, describing it as a monstrous attack and repudiating any individual or group associated with it. In Canada, candlelight solidarity vigils were held in London's Compton Street, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Orlando civic authorities are now releasing the names of those murdered in the attack. On the other hand, Westboro Baptist Church proclaimed "Shooters Keep Coming Round" while bodies were still lying in the club, over in Topeka, Kansas. In unrelated news, another individual was caught en route to Los Angeles Pride with assault rifles and explosives in his car. Recommended: Wikipedia/2016 Orlando nightclub shooting: 2016_Orlando_nightclub- shooting Pulse nightclub website: Lois Beckett: "Orlando nightclub shooting is deadliest US mass shooting in modern history" Guardian: 12.06.2016:http://www. jun/12/orlando-nightclub- deadliest-mass-shooting- terrorism Josh Withey: "Father of Pulse shooter suspects it had nothing to do with religion"Gay Times:12.06.2016:https://www. /father-of-pulse-shooter- suspect-says-nothing-religion/ Yezmin Villarreal: "Westboro sings "Shooters Keep Coming Round' as Bodies Laid in Club"Advocate:12.06.2016:http://www. westboro-sings-shooters-keep- comin-around-bodies-still- club Joseph McCormick: "ISIS claims responsibility for Orlando gay nightclub mass shooting which killed 50"Pinknews: 12.06.2016:http://www. isis-claims-responsibility- for-orlando-gay-club-mass- shooting-which-killed-50/ James Withers: "Orlando authorities start releasing the names of the dead"Gaystarnews:12.06.2016:http://www. orlando-authorities-start- releasing-names-dead/#gs.jT_ fmrs Jack Flanagan: "Pulse club opened by founder for gay brother who died after battle with HIV"Gaystarnews:12.06.2016:http://www. orlando-authorities-start- releasing-names-dead/#gs.jT_ fmrs "Trump's total lack of empathy":New Zealand Herald: 13.06.2016:http://www. article.cfm?c_id=2  

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 13th June 2016 - 8:58pm

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