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Pulse, Orlando massacre: Presbyterian Moderator in Ireland describes shootings as an 'evil act of terror'

By Georgina Stubbs

Published 13/06/2016

An injured person is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub in Florida, America
An injured person is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub in Florida, America
A woman says a quiet prayer near Pulse nightclub after the attack
Pulse nightclub where 50 people were killed
Gunman Omar Mateen

The moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has condemned the shooting of almost 50 people at a gay nightclub in Florida as an "unspeakable act".

The Rev Frank Sellar, expressed his shock and sadness at news of the shootings in Orlando, Florida at the weekend.

A gunman massacred 50 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in what is believed to be the worst mass shooting in American history

Omar Mateen was armed with a powerful assault rifle and handgun when he sprayed revellers with bullets at the popular venue, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida.

The Rev Sellar has offered his prayers to the families and friends of those killed and injured,

"It is heart-breaking for families to lose their loved ones in such a tragic and unnecessary way. In the fallen world in which we live, Orlando has joined Paris, Ankara, Baghdad and Brussels, as the latest place to experience an evil act of terrorism," he said.

"In offering my condolences on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, I pray for those who have been bereaved and that they would know God’s peace and comfort at this time of terrible loss.

"May this unspeakable act renew our resolve to pray for governments and all those engaged in working to end violence across the world, including those places where such acts so often go unreported."

A books of condolence was opened for the victims in Belfast City Hall on Monday morning.

Omar Mateen was known to US authorities, it has been revealed.

The FBI said the 29-year-old killer, born in New York, was an American citizen who legally purchased two firearms within the last week.

Despite being aware of Mateen since 2013, following inflammatory comments made to co-workers and over ties to an American suicide bomber in 2014, he was not under surveillance.

Authorities deemed his link to the bomber to be minimal so did not view him as a threat and, after interviews and an investigation, dropped the probe into his comments.

It has been revealed that 911 calls involving the shooter from Port St Lucie, Florida and featuring conversations about the Islamic State before the massacre, have now become federal evidence.

US president Barack Obama called the killings at the gay-friendly establishment an "act of terror" and an "act of hate" and said they are being investigated as terrorism.

More than 300 people were inside the building at the time of the attack; as well as 50 dead, 53 people have also been taken to hospital.

President Obama praised the emergency services' response and described the gunman as a person "filled with hatred".

He said the massacre is a reminder of how easy it is for someone to access a weapon like a gun, enabling them to shoot people.

"We have to decide if that is the type of country we want to be. To actively do nothing is a decision as well," Mr Obama added.

Names of some of the victims have now been released by the police - Edward Sotomayor Jr, Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo and Juan Ramon Guerrero are among the many dead.

Mir Seddique, the father of the shooter, told NBC News he thinks a recent experience in which his son saw two men kissing might be related to the shooting.

He apologised for the whole incident, said he was not aware of the actions of his security guard son and claimed "this had nothing to do with religion".

The killer, who also held hostages in a three-hour stand-off, later died in a gunfight with Swat officers in the Florida city. He exchanged gunfire with 14 officers at the club.

Mr Obama has also ordered flags at the White House and federal buildings to be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the victims.

Belfast City Council opened a book of condolence for those killed in the mass shooting.

Belfast Ulster Unionist councillor Jeff Dudgeon - who successfully challenged laws criminalising homosexuality in Northern Ireland - said he was "deeply shocked to hear of the sheer scale of the casualties".

"It is hard to comprehend the enormity of the act and the awful nature of the suffering of the members of the LGBT community. Those who survived will never be the same again, while the lives of so many, mostly young, victims out enjoying themselves on a Saturday night have been cruelly and abruptly ended.

"The people of Belfast will, I know, express their solidarity with the people of Orlando, a city in Florida many of us know well and have visited."

He has asked City Hall officials to make arrangements to allow citizens to show their sympathy.

Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani said "targeting civilians is not justifiable under any circumstances whatsoever", while Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "horrified" by the shooting.

The Queen also sent a message of condolence to Mr Obama.

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