ORLANDO (US), June 12 - Fifty people died and another 53 were injured when a gunman opened fire and seized hostages at a gay nightclub in Florida, police said today, making it the worst mass shooting in US history.
�We have cleared the building, and it is with great sadness that I share we have not 20 but 50 casualties in addition to the shooter,� Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told a news briefing, raising the death toll from 20 previously. �There are another 53 that are hospitalised.�
Terrified survivors � who moments before were laughing and dancing with friends � described how the gunman raked the club with bullets, prompting a police SWAT team to storm the venue.
President Barack Obama was being kept up to date by his homeland security and counterterrorism aide on what Florida officials said was being investigated as a terrorist attack. The federal government has offered its full support with the probe.
Quoting law enforcement sources, US television networks named the shooter as Omar Mateen, who was born to Afghan parents in 1986 and lives in Port St Lucie, Florida, about two hours drive from Orlando. CBS News reported that Mateen, who died in a shootout with police after the siege, has no apparent criminal history.
Police have yet to officially identify the gunman. Briefing the media in Orlando, FBI special agent Ron Harper said the suspect may have had �leanings� toward Islamic extremism. �Unfortunately, there are people who died from gunshot wounds, maybe around 20, inside the night club,� Orlando police chief John Mina told the briefing. He said around 42 injured were taken to area hospitals. � AFP