Orlando nightclub shooting: How the attack unfolded

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Memorial in OrlandoImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Details continue to emerge about the gunman's motive

A gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing at least 49 people and injuring dozens before being shot dead by police. What do we know about what happened?

How the incident unfolded

The attack began at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday.

Pulse, which is one of the biggest nightclubs in Orlando, was holding a Latin-themed event that was nearing its end when a man opened fire. There were more than 300 people inside at the time.

"He had an automatic rifle, so nobody stood a chance," said Jackie Smith, who saw two friends next to her get shot. "I just tried to get out of there."

At 02:09, the nightclub posted on its Facebook page: "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."

The gunman, who was carrying an AR-15-type assault rifle and a handgun, exchanged fire near the entrance with a police officer who was working at the nightclub.

Additional officers arrived at the scene and a second gun battle ensued inside, forcing the gunman back. He took several people hostage in a bathroom at the back of the building, and told the police he had explosives.

At this point, police were able "to save and rescue dozens and dozens of people and get them out of the club," according to Orlando police chief John Mina.

With the gunman holed up in the bathroom, police secured the building and began preparing to breach the external wall of the bathroom with explosives.

Police chiefs made the decision to storm the building at about 05:00 local time (09:00 GMT), detonating the explosives to create large holes on the building's rear wall.

Mr Mina said dozens of people who had taken shelter in another bathroom were able to escape through these holes before the gunman himself emerged.

After another gun battle with police, he was shot dead.

At least 49 people were killed in the attack, making it the worst mass shooting in recent US history.

Who was the gunman?

Officials have named the suspect as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old from Fort Pierce, a city about two hours' drive south of Orlando, in St Lucie County.

His father, Seddique Mateen, said his son became "very angry" after seeing two men kissing in Miami recently.

Image source, CBS

FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper told reporters that Mateen had been interviewed by FBI officers twice in 2013 following inflammatory comments to colleagues asserting ties to the so-called Islamic State group (IS).

The investigation ended after officers were unable to substantiate the claims. However, Mateen was questioned again in 2014 about a potential connection to Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American known to have carried out a suicide bombing in Syria.

Mateen's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said that he was violent and mentally unstable and had beaten her repeatedly while they were together.

It appears that he remarried after that divorce, and had a three-year-old son with his second wife, according to the Miami Herald.

Investigators are looking at whether his second wife, Noor Zahi Salman, knew about the plot ahead of time, and are considering charges.

She told the FBI her husband said he was going to see friends, though she thought he was going to carry out an attack at the night club, officials have told the US media.

There are also media reports that she said she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, and drove him to Pulse once to scope it out.

Media caption,

Jim Van Horn, Pulse nightclub customer: "He (Omar Mateen) was a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men"

Mateen appears to have been a regular at the club and he contacted men on gay dating apps, raising the possibility that he was conflicted about being gay and lashed out.

The group has said it was behind the attack, but the extent of its involvement is not clear.

An FBI spokesman said Mateen phoned emergency services during the attack and pledged allegiance to IS.

The group had called for its supporters to launch attacks on the West during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, that began last week.

But US President Barack Obama said there was no evidence yet of any contact between the gunman and Islamic State.

He said it was an example of "homegrown extremism" and it appeared Mateen was inspired by content he saw online.

What have eyewitnesses said?

Image source, Reuters

There were more than 300 people inside the club at the time of the shooting. Some have been speaking about what they witnessed.

Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club's rooms when a man holding a weapon entered. "I heard 20, 40, 50 shots," he told the AFP news agency. "The music stopped."

Rob Rick said the attack happened just as "everybody was drinking their last sip". He dropped to the ground and crawled to a DJ booth when he heard shots.

Janiel Gonzalez said it was "complete chaos" as the gunman opened fire.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Most of the victims were young, male and Latino

"People were screaming 'Help me, help me, I'm trapped!'" he told AFP. "People were getting trampled. There was no clear exit sign at the club, so we didn't know which door to take or where to go."

"All you saw is people running and screaming and there were bodies in the parking lot where bodies were being tagged," Christopher Hansen told CNN. "It was like a scene from a horror movie."

Angel Colon said he was shot three times in the leg and survived the attack.

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Orlando survivor Angel Colon: "I was thinking I'm next, I'm dead"

He said he was thinking "I'm next, I'm dead" as the gunman walked through the club shooting people on the floor.

Another survivor, Patience Carter, has said "the guilt of being alive is heavy".

She said Mateen had talked about wanting the US to "stop bombing my country", possibly referring to his father's home of Afghanistan.

What is the political reaction?

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President Obama: "We are united in grief, outrage - and resolve"

US President Barack Obama said this was an act of terror and an act of hate, but authorities were investigating whether there were links to extremist groups.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, called on the president to resign for not using the words "Islamic terrorism" and once again called for a ban on all Muslims coming to the United States.

Mr Obama, visibly angry, said that is "not the America we want".

"If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them," he said.

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Marco Rubio: "These terrorists are committed people"