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Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 15:01

Orlando shooting 'homegrown extremism'

By Agencies

Orlando shooting 'homegrown extremism'
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, shines in the colors of a rainbow to honor victims of Sunday's mass shooting at an Orlando gay club, June 13, 2016.  (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

ORLANDO/WASHINGTON — Memorials and vigils were held in Orlando, Florida, after 49 lives perished in a shooting massacre in a gay nightclub, as the White House on Monday called the shooting "homegrown extremism".

As "the City Beautiful" sank into grief after waking up to the deadliest mass shooting in US history, authorities on Monday offered a detailed account of the battle to end the carnage and started to look into the motives behind the killer.

Wielding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a hand gun, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old Afghan American, walked into the packed Pulse nightclub and opened fire on the crowds at around 2 am local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday. He then took several hostages and holed himself up.

More than three hours later, Mateen emerged through a hole in the building that a police armored vehicle had punched earlier to let clubgoers escape. He was later killed during the gun battle with SWAT forces, said Orlando Police Chief John Mina at a morning news briefing on Monday.

The lone gunman did pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and tried to negotiate with police during the attack, Mina said.

"He was cool and calm when he was making those phone calls to us," Mina said. "We had a team of crisis negotiators that did talk to the suspect just trying to get as much information as possible ... He really wasn't asking for a whole lot. We were doing most of the asking."

Orlando shooting 'homegrown extremism'

The police officer also disputed the rumors that there were multiple shooters, and confirmed that "the one shooter, Omar Mateen, is dead."

Meanwhile, the Chinese Consulate-General in Houston said no Chinese nationals were among the victims of Sunday's mass shooting in Florida.

Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey said on Monday there were strong indications of radicalization by the shooter and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations.

However, "it is also not entirely clear at this point just what terrorist group he aspired to support," said Comey at a briefing in Washington.

According to Comey, the shooter made three 911 calls, in which he mentioned not just allegiance to IS, but also solidarity with two suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing and a Florida man who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for al-Nusra Front, a group actually in conflict with IS.

"The bombers at the Boston Marathon and the suicide bomber from Florida were not inspired by ISIL, which adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives," Comey said.

At the briefing in Orlando, a FBI agent also clarified that the total number of nightclub victims was 49 instead of the previously reported 50, a number that counted the shooter himself as a victim.

"The shooter is not a victim," FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal said.

At least 53 people were hospitalized, including five in grave conditions, suggesting that the death toll could further rise.

The tragedy, the deadliest terror attack since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, shocked the whole nation and brings into focus the specter of homegrown terrorism that the US authorities have been worrying about.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama called the shooting "homegrown extremism", and said it appeared that Mateen was motivated by extremist propaganda online as no evidence was found about his direct link with radical groups.

"As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time," said Obama at the White House.

"It does appear that at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL," said Obama, referring to an acronym of the extremist group the Islamic State (IS) based in Syria and Iraq. "But there's no evidence so far that he was, in fact, directed by ISIL."

Orlando shooting 'homegrown extremism'
President Barack Obama (left) speaks to members of the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 13, 2016, after getting briefed on the investigation of a shooting at a nightclub in Orlando by FBI Director James Comey (right) Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, not shown, and other officials. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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