50 dead as Florida nightclub massacre becomes America’s worst ever mass shooting

50 dead as Florida nightclub massacre becomes America’s worst ever mass shooting

  • 50 are confirmed dead
  • Omar Mateen named as shooter
  • Mateen was known to FBI
  • Unconfirmed reports that Islamic State has claimed responsibility
  • US president Barack Obama has said the nightclub shooting in Orlando was an "act of terror" and an "act of hate"

Update 8.50pm: Omar Mateen was said to have been known to the FBI before the nightclub attack and had been looked at by agents within the last few years.

The matter for which he came under investigation was "open and closed pretty quickly," an official said.

When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, he said authorities had "suggestions that individual has leanings towards that".

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the gunman called 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group.

Update 8.40pm: Here at home, President Michael D. Higgins has sent his condolences to the families of the victims of the shooting in Orlando today.

In a statement he said "Our thoughts are with the people of Florida at this difficult time, the loss of innocent lives on such a horrendous scale is truly shocking and challenges us all".

He went on to say that he has spoken to US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley, and personally conveyed his deepest sympathy with the people of the United States at this time."

Update 7.15pm: US president Barack Obama has said the nightclub shooting in Orlando was an "act of terror" and an "act of hate".

He said the FBI is investigating the massacre as an act of terrorism, and added that no effort will be spared to determine whether the shooter was affiliated with terrorist groups.

Mr Obama spoke at the White House after 50 people were killed overnight at a nightclub in Florida. Officials have said 53 more have been taken to hospital.

The president noted that the killer had targeted a gay nightclub. He said the atrocity was a "sobering reminder" that an attack on any American is an attack "on all of us".

Update 4.30pm: A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub early on Sunday before dying in a gunfight with Swat officers, police said.

The attack left at least 50 people dead, making it the worst mass shooting in American history.

Authorities were investigating it as an act of terrorism.

At least 53 other people were taken to hospital, the Orlando mayor said.

"There's blood everywhere," mayor Buddy Dyer said.

The suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the gay club known as Pulse Orlando around 2am, when more than 300 people were inside. The gunman then went back inside and took hostages, police chief John Mina said.

Around 5am, authorities sent in a Swat team to rescue the hostages. Police have not determined an exact number of casualties, but Mr Mina said "approximately 20" bodies were inside the club.

In addition to the guns, the shooter also had some sort of "suspicious device", Mr Mina said.

Authorities were looking into whether the attack was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter acted alone, according to Danny Banks, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as 'domestic terror incident'," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

The suspect was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St Lucie, Florida.

Representative Alan Grayson named the shooter, citing law enforcement officials.

FBI agent Ron Hopper said there was no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.

When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Mr Hopper said authorities had "suggestions that individual has leanings towards that".

Police said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting. Mr Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

 FBI assistant special agent in charge Ron Hopper, center, answers questions from members of the media after a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando. Picture: AP Photo/Phelan M Ebenhack
FBI assistant special agent in charge Ron Hopper, center, answers questions from members of the media after a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando. Picture: AP Photo/Phelan M Ebenhack

A woman who was outside the dance club early on Sunday was trying to contact her 30-year-old son, Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a toilet with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: "He's coming."

"The next text said: 'He has us, and he's in here with us'," Mina Justice said. "That was the last conversation."

Dozens of police vehicles swarmed the area around the club. At least two police pickup vehicles were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Centre.

Pulse posted on its own Facebook page around 2am: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."

Just before 6am, the club posted an update: "As soon as we have any information, we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love."

Local, state and federal agencies were investigating.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack and has asked for regular updates on the investigation, the White House said.

Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club's rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.

"I heard 20, 40, 50 shots," Mr Alamo said. "The music stopped."

Clubgoer Rob Rick said the shooting started just before closing time.

"Everybody was drinking their last sip," he said.

He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth. A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.

Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged and police urged people to back away from the club. He saw the wounded being tended to across the street.

"I was thinking, 'Are you kidding me?' So I just dropped down. I just said, 'Please, please, please, I want to make it out'," he said. "And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don't get shot."

Update 2.40pm: Approximately 20 people have been killed and 42 others were wounded after a gunman opened fire in a crowded Florida nightclub.

The man, who is thought to have been armed with an assault-type rifle and a handgun, took hostages at Pulse Orlando before being killed in a gunfight with SWAT officers.

Police chief John Mina also said the shooter had some sort of "suspicious device".

50 dead as Florida nightclub massacre becomes America’s worst ever mass shooting

Update 12.50pm: "Approximately" 20 people have been killed inside a Florida nightclub after a gunman opened fire, and at least 42 were wounded, police said.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said authorities have not determined an exact number of people killed, but that "approximately 20" have died.

An FBI spokesman said the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism.

He added that authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

Mr Mina said the shooter was armed with an assault-type rifle, a handgun and some type of suspicious device. Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando.

Mr Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

He also said the suspect had exchanged gunshots with an officer working at the club, then went back inside and took hostages around 2am.

Around three hours later, a Swat team made the decision to go inside and rescue the hostages.

The shooter died in a gunfight with those officers.

Earlier: A gunman who opened fire inside a popular nightclub in Florida is dead, police said.

Orlando Police did not immediately provide further details on the department's official Twitter account on Sunday, and it was not immediately clear how the shooter died.

Police described the shooting as a "mass casualty situation" and said local, state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation.

'Approximately' 20 people dead after Florida nightclub shooting

"Approximately" 20 people have been killed inside a Florida nightclub after a gunman opened fire, and at least 42 were wounded, police said.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said authorities have not determined an exact number of people killed, but that "approximately 20" have died.

An FBI spokesman said the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism.

He added that authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter was a lone wolf.

Mr Mina said the shooter was armed with an assault-type rifle, a handgun and some type of suspicious device. Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting at Pulse Orlando.

Mr Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.

He also said the suspect had exchanged gunshots with an officer working at the club, then went back inside and took hostages around 2am.

Around three hours later, a Swat team made the decision to go inside and rescue the hostages. The shooter died in a gunfight with those officers.

It was not immediately clear how many people were wounded in the shooting, or if any of the victims had died.

Picture: Orlando Police
Picture: Orlando Police

Police have told people to stay away from the area and said a noise in the vicinity was a "controlled explosion". No further details were provided on the explosion.

Dozens of emergency vehicles are at the scene around the club.

The club, Pulse Orlando, posted on its own Facebook page just after 2am: "Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running."

The incident follows the fatal shooting of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando by a 27-year-old man from Florida who later killed himself.

Ms Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on The Voice.

At least two police pick-up trucks were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Centre.

Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club's rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.

"I heard 20, 40, 50 shots," he said. "The music stopped."

Club-goer Rob Rick said it happened around 2am, just before closing time.

"Everybody was drinking their last sip," he said.

He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled towards a DJ booth.

A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were then able to escape through the back of the club.

Mina Justice was outside the club trying to contact her 30-year-old son Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police.

He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: "He's coming."

Ms Justice said: "The next text said: 'He has us, and he's in here with us.' That was the last conversation."

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