The ex-wife of a man who opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday has said he was “mentally unstable” and “disturbed”.
Omar Mateen killed 50 people and wounded 53 more in the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history, before being shot dead by police.
The so-called Islamic State group has said it was behind the attack, but the extent of its involvement is not clear.
A security company that Mateen used to work for said he was vetted twice.
The checks in 2007 and 2013 did not reveal anything of concern, G4S said, and Mateen had carried a gun as part of his job.
LGBT community under siege
Sitora Yusufiy lived with Mateen for four months in 2009. She said her family “rescued” her from the relationship when they became aware that he was being physically abusive.
He beat her up regularly during their short-lived marriage for trivial things like not doing laundry, she said.
“When he would get in his tempers, he would express hate toward everything. He was mentally unstable and mentally ill: that’s the only explanation that I could give.”
Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent who was born in New York and lived in Florida, was not on a terrorism watch list.
However, officials revealed that the FBI had twice interviewed him in 2013-14 after he made “inflammatory remarks” to a colleague, before closing their investigation.
It has emerged that he legally purchased several guns in the past few days.
The attack began at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday at the Pulse nightclub. There was an exchange of fire with a police officer working at the club, after which the suspect took hostages.
At 05:00 a police assault team went into the club after police received text messages and phone calls from some of the hostages. Mateen was killed in an exchange of fire.
Ten of his victims have so far been named: Edward Sotomayor Jr, Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Peter O Gonzalez-Cruz, Luis S Vielma, Kimberly Morris, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice and Darryl Roman Burt II.
A statement on the IS-affiliated Amaq news agency said that an IS “fighter” was responsible.
NBC News reported that Mateen had called the emergency services before the attack and sworn allegiance to IS.
Mateen’s father has said religion had nothing to do with the attack.
Seddique Mateen said his son saw two men kissing in downtown Miami some months ago and became very angry.
He said: “We are apologising for the whole incident. We are in shock, like the whole country.”
US President Barack Obama has described the attack as “an act of terror and an act of hate”.
It was a further reminder of how easy it was to acquire a deadly weapon in the US and shoot people, he said.
“We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be,” said the president, who has campaigned for stricter gun laws. “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Mr Obama has ordered flags on federal buildings to be flown at half mast until sunset on Thursday.
Later the White House said Mr Obama had postponed a joint appearance with the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.
Mrs Clinton said in a statement: “This reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
And in a message to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, she said: “We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America.”
‘Get tough and smart’
Meanwhile her Republican rival, Donald Trump, said Mr Obama should step down for refusing to use the words “radical Islam” when condemning the attack.
“If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country any more,” he said.
The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged politicians not to “score points” or “exploit fear”.
In a direct message to IS, Nihad Awad said: “You do not speak for us. You do not represent us. You are an aberration.”
The death toll means that the Orlando attack surpasses the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, which left 32 people dead.
States of emergency have been declared in the city of Orlando and surrounding Orange County.
Worst US mass shootings in last 25 years
- At least 50 dead, 2016 – Omar Mateen opens fire on revellers at gay club in Orlando, Florida
- 32 dead, 2007 – Student Seung-Hui Cho massacres students at Virginia Tech university before killing himself
- 27 dead, 2012 – Adam Lanza kills 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six adults before killing himself at Sandy Hook, Connecticut
- 23 dead, 1991 – George Hennard drives through the wall of a cafe in Killeen, Texas, before opening fire and committing suicide
- 14 dead, 2015 – Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik open fire at a staff gathering in San Bernardino
- 13 dead, 2009 – Maj Nidal Malik Hasan opens fire at army base in Fort Hood, Texas
- 13 dead, 2009 – Jiverly Wong shoots people at New York immigrant centre before killing himself
- 13 dead, 1999 – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado
According to the crowd-sourced Mass Shooting Tracker, the US last year suffered 372 mass shootings, defined as a single incident that kills or injures four or more people. Some 475 people were killed and 1,870 wounded.
The latest incident came as Orlando was still reeling from the fatal shooting on Friday night of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie following a concert in the city.
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