The gunman who killed 49 people at a LGBT nightclub in Florida said he had a car rigged with bombs outside and threatened to strap hostages into explosive vests, according to transcripts of 911 calls he made released on Monday.
Omar Mateen (29) paused during a three-hour siege to telephone emergency dispatchers three times and to post internet messages from inside the Pulse nightclub professing his support for Islamist militant groups.
He is said by authorities to have posted internet messages from inside the nightclub professing his support for Islamist militant groups.
“You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid,” Mateen said during one of the 911 calls, according to a transcript published by the US Department of Justice.
Mateen told the emergency dispatcher he was wearing an explosive vest like the kind they “used in France”, apparently referring to the attacks in Paris last November by Islamic militants, according to the transcript.
As victims were fleeing the club, they told police outside that the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes, the FBI said in a statement.
No such vests or improvised explosive devices were found in the nightclub or the suspect’s car, however, the FBI said.
The gunman identified himself as an “Islamic soldier”, according to the transcript, and he told a negotiator to tell the US to stop bombing Syria and Iraq.
“When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, ‘No, you already know what I did,’” the transcript said.
Authorities have said preliminary evidence indicates Mateen, who worked as a security guard, was a mentally disturbed individual who acted alone and without direction from outside networks.
The department of justice released the full transcript of the shooter’s 911 call at 2.35am which lasted about 50 seconds. Here is what he said:
Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficient [in Arabic]
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.
OD: What’s your name?
OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.
OD: Ok, What’s your name?
OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.
OD: Alright, where are you at?
OM: In Orlando.
OD: Where in Orlando?
[End of call]
The department of justice released the full transcript following criticism from US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan who accused the Obama administration of censoring references to the Islamic State militant group. He said the decision to edit the transcript was “preposterous” and that everyone knew Mateen was a radical Islamic extremist inspired by Islamic State. “We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community,” the top elected Republican official said.
“The administration should release the full, unredacted transcript so the public is clear-eyed about who did this and why.”
In the the original release Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s name was redacted.
US attorney general Loretta Lynch said investigators were focused on building a complete profile of Mateen, a New York-born US citizen and Florida resident of Afghan descent who has been described by US officials as "self-radicalised" in his extremist sympathies.
The Pulse massacre, which also left 53 people wounded, has spawned a week of national mourning and debate over the easy accessibility of firearms and the vulnerability of people in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to hate crimes.
In the largest public show of solidarity yet for victims in the central Florida city where the June 12th attack unfolded, thousands of people gathered at a lakeside park in Orlando for a memorial vigil on Sunday evening.
Many waved rainbow-striped flags with the message “Orlando Strong,” while others wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogans “Orlando United” and “Orlando Love.” Organisers strolled through the ethnically diverse assembly of young and old handing out white daisies. As twilight fell, candles were lit and held aloft by the crowd.
Many were moved to tears by the outpouring of emotion, briefly heightened as an actual rainbow arched across partly cloudy skies over the lake.
"We are all mourning for the people who died, and we totally condemn this act of violence," said Safia Akhtar (71) a Pakistani native who lives in Orlando and works as a real estate agent. She carried a sign that read: "Muslims condemn extremism."
The attorney general, who will travel to Orlando on Tuesday to confer with investigators and meet survivors and victims' loved ones, declined to say whether a federal grand jury was likely to charge Mateen's second wife, Noor Salman, or anyone else.
US officials have said Ms Salman knew of her husband’s plans to carry out the attack.
“Because this investigation is open and ongoing, we’re not commenting on anyone else’s role in it right now, except to say that we are talking to everyone who knew him, and that of course includes his family, to determine what they knew, what they saw in the days and weeks leading up to this,” Ms Lynch said.
On Capitol Hill, the Orlando massacre has triggered a fresh effort to break a long-standing stalemate in Congress over gun control.
The Senate was set to vote on Monday on four competing measures – two from Democrats and two from Republicans – to expand background checks on gun buyers and curb gun sales for people on terrorism watch lists.
FBI director James Comey said last week that Mateen was on a watch list between May 2013 and March 2014 while under investigation after claiming a connection to or support for multiple Islamist extremist groups.
In an interview on the CBS show Face the Nation on Sunday, Mr Comey said politicians were misguided in thinking tougher gun restrictions would stop someone intent on carrying out a massacre.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the November 8th election, said he shared the goal of keeping guns out of the hands of people on watch lists.
“We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns,” he told ABC.