50 slain in 'act of terrorism' on gay Florida nightclub
Shooter is said to be angry after seeing two men kissing in front of his family
The mayor of Orlando has confirmed that 50 people were killed in what the FBI described as an 'act of terrorism' carried out at a gay nightclub in the US city.
Mayor Buddy Dyer has asked the state governor to declare a state of emergency following the attack at Pulse nightclub carried out by a single assassin now identified as US national Omar Mateen (29).
As soon as we have any information we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work... https://t.co/3EY0fQ926m— Pulse Orlando (@pulseorlando) June 12, 2016
The atrocity is reportedly the deadliest mass shooting in US, according to Mr Dyer.
It is now known that 53 other people were injured, many critically, so the grim death toll may rise.
Mr Dyer said: "We are dealing with something we never imagined.
Because of the scale of the crime I've asked the governor to declare a state of emergency.
Chief Mina speaking at press conference pic.twitter.com/BYpMRoEp2d— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016
"We are also issuing a state of emergency for the city of Orlando so that we can bring additional resources to bear to deal with the aftermath."
FBI special agent Ronald Hopper said: "We feel confident there are no immediate threats to the area or the United States of America."
However, it has emerged that before the shooting Mateen called 911 (the US emergency number) and swore his allegiance to the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He used an assault rifle - AR 15 - on all of the victims and also carried a handgun.
While Mateen's family is from Aghanistan, it is believed he was born in the US and lived over 100 miles away from the club.
He was a married man with a three-year-old son.
His father Mir Seddique told NBC News his son became angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami several months ago.
"This has nothing to do with religion,' he said. 'We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren't aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country."
The FBI said that he was known to have "leanings" towards extremism and Islamic State.
He was involved with a stand-off with officers for around three hours before SWAT teams stormed the building and shot him dead.
Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life. pic.twitter.com/MAb0jGi7r4— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 12, 2016
Police chief John Mina also said the shooter had a “suspicious device”.
Mr Mina said the focus was now on securing the night club and the surrounding area, including the suspect’s vehicle, a van parked outside the club. Once these areas were secure, they would be able to start removing bodies and notifying family members.
Mr Mina said: “I want to commend the heroic and courageous actions of the first responders who were involved in an exchange of gunfire and the Swat team who were able to save up to 30 potential victims.”
FBI spokesman Danny Banks said the mass shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism. He said authorities are looking into whether this was an act of domestic or international terror, and are trying to find out if the culprit was acting alone.
Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a "controlled explosion" at the scene of the shooting, although Mr Mina later said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.
Mr Mina said police have not yet determined an exact number of casualties, but said "approximately 20" people were dead inside the club.
I don't care who did it, what colour or creed. Shooting up a nightclub full of gay people is political terrorism. #pulseorlando— Izzy Kamikaze (@IzzyKamikaze) June 12, 2016
Dozens of police vehicles swarmed the area around the club. At least two police trucks were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Centre.
Pulse Orlando posted on its own Facebook page at around 2am local time: "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."
Police said local, state and federal agencies are investigating.
The incident follows the fatal shooting of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando on Friday night by a 27-year-old Florida man who later killed himself.
Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on the US version of The Voice.
Mina Justice was outside Pulse Orlando early on Sunday morning, trying to contact her 30-year-old son Eddie. He had 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 to say: "He's coming."
"The next text said: 'He has us, and he's in here with us,'" she said. "That was the last conversation."
Clubber Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of Pulse'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."
Rob Rick said the incident took place around 2am, just before closing time.
He said: "Everybody was drinking their last sip."
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 and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to escape through the back of the club.
Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he started hearing gunshots. The gunfire continued even after he emerged, when police were telling people to back away from the building.
He saw injured people being tended to across the street.
Mr Hansen said: "I was thinking, are you kidding me? So I just dropped down. I just said 'please, please, please, I want to make it out'.
"And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don't get shot."
Belfast Telegraph Digital