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Orlando shooter pledged allegiance to IS

June 21, 2016

Orlando gunman Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the so-called "Islamic State" in partial transcripts of phone calls released by the FBI. Mateen was behind the attack at the Pulse night club, which left 49 people dead.

FBI agents return to the scene of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 +++ (C) picture-alliance/Zuma Press
Image: picture-alliance/Zuma Press

The FBI on Monday released a transcript of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen's 50-second phone call with a police dispatcher from inside the Pulse night club, where he went on a shooting spree with a semi-automatic weapon killing 49 people and wounding dozens.

The transcript was initially released with references to the so-called "Islamic State" and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi redacted. The FBI said it had redacted the calls out of sensitivity to the victims and to avoid spreading propaganda, but later backpedalled and released an unredacted transcript after criticism.

According to a timeline released by the FBI, shots were first reported at 2:02 am local time on June 12. Orlando police arrived at the scene at 2:04 a.m., and four minutes later officers tried to enter the night club and engaged the shooter. Shortly after, a SWAT team arrived at the scene.

Mateen called a 911 operator from inside the club at 2:35 a.m.

First contact

The FBI released the following transcript of the 50-second call.

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
Omar Mateen (OM)

OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]
OD: What?
OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna 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 [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.
OD: Alright, where are you at?
OM: In Orlando.
OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

Three calls with crisis negotiators

After making first contact, Mateen had three conversations with crisis negotiators. The first was a nine-minute call at 2:48 a.m.; a second 16-minute call at 3:03 a.m.; and a third three-minute conversation at 3:24 a.m..

During these calls Mateen "identified himself as an Islamic soldier" and "told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq," according to the FBI.

Mateen also told crisis negotiators that he would blow up a car bomb and that he had a suicide vest like the one “used in France.”

An undated photo from social media of 29-year-old Orlando United States of America (c) Imago/ZUMA Press
Investigators are still trying to understand Mateen's motivesImage: Imago/ZUMA Press

"There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I'm gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid," Mateen said, according to the partial release.

At this point police checked Mateen's car and found no evidence of a bomb.

At 4:21 a.m., police removed an air conditioning unit from a dressing room that allowed some victims to escape. A few minutes later, rescued victims told the Orlando police that Mateen had said he was going to put four explosive vests on other victims.

Orlando police Chief John Mina said at a news conference on Monday it was this information that prompted the SWAT team to act.

At 5:02 a.m., a SWAT team blew a hole in a wall of the night club and entered alongside an armored vehicle. Shots were fired and by 5:15 a.m. the Orlando police reported the suspect was dead.

Many questions still unanswered

The FBI transcripts left questions unanswered, such as whether all victims were killed by bullets fired from Mateen's gun or if police may have shot victims during the rescue operation.

Police Chief Mina said Mateen was responsible if any police fire hit victims.

Without providing details, he said: "Here's what I will tell you. Those killings are on the suspect, on the suspect alone in my mind."

Authorities believe Mateen was not directed by IS and may have been self-radicalized.

On Tuesday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch will travel to Orlando to meet with investigators. A main aim of the investigation is to determine why Mateen targeted a gay night club, she said.

cw/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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