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Orlando Nightclub Killer Omar Mateen was looking for support from Varied Islamist Extremist groups

No direct links have been found between him and Islamic state.

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Candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting held at Morningside Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wikimedia commons
  • Omar Mateen expressed sympathy for various Islamist extremists
  • President Barack Obama said that Omar was most likely a homegrown extremist
  • The Florida shooting spree began early on Sunday when the club was packed with over 350 people

The man behind the Orlando nightclub killing, Omar Mateen expressed sympathy for various Islamist extremists. The FBI said on Monday that these extremists included the sworn enemies in the Middle East. No direct links have been found between Mateen and Islamic state, the US authorities reported.

President Barack Obama said that Omar was most likely a homegrown extremist.

Mateen, 29, was born to Afghan immigrants. He was shot dead by police who stormed the Pulse club with armored cars after a three-hour siege. In 911 calls during his rampage, the killer expressed allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said Mateen had made comments favorable to multiple armed Islamist movements and people, which “adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives.”

“So far, we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network,” Comey told reporters in Washington. “We’re highly confident this killer was radicalized at least in some part through the internet.”

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Islamic State, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria, reiterated on Monday a claim of responsibility, although it offered no signs to indicate coordination with the gunman.

In calls to authorities on Sunday, Mateen also mentioned support for the Boston Marathon bombers and a Florida man who became a Nusra Front suicide bomber in Syria, Comey said. Nusra is an al Qaeda offshoot which is at odds with Islamic State in Syria’s civil war.

Co-workers reported Mateen to the FBI in 2013 after he had made “inflammatory and contradictory” statements, including a claim that he had family connections to al Qaeda and membership of Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah, a bitter rival.

The FBI’s Miami office investigated Mateen for 10 months and interviewed him twice but found no evidence of a crime or connection with a militant group. Comey said the FBI was also “working to understand what role anti-gay bigotry may have played” in the attack.

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The massacre reverberated on the presidential campaign trail, where Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the two likely opponents in the Nov. 8 election, clashed over how to confront violent Islamist extremists.

Trump proposed suspending immigration to the United States from countries with a history of terrorism against America, Europe or U.S. allies, while Clinton warned against demonizing Muslims and called for tougher gun safety measures.

Obama is to visit Orlando on Thursday to pay respects to families of the victims.

‘NEEDLES IN NATIONWIDE HAYSTACK’

The Orlando killings followed the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last year and raised the question of whether the United States will have to confront jihadist attacks in the homeland for years to come.

A couple at a vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting
A couple at a vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting

Comey said tracking apparent lone wolf attackers like Mateen was like finding “needles in a nationwide haystack” while also trying to work out what kind of people could become radicalized.

The Florida shooting spree began early on Sunday when the club was packed with over 350 people at a Latin music night. Mateen fired on the crowd with bullets from an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol. Many fled the scene.

Mateen was trapped in a bathroom by an initial wave of officers. This allowed many people to flee. However many were still trapped in the washroom with him, leading to a standoff, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters.

Police broke a hole in the wall for the people trapped to flee, after negotiating with Mateen for over three hours. Soon, the killer also emerged from this hole. He was shot dead by the officers, police said.

Some 53 people were wounded and 29 remain hospitalized at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Michael Cheatham, chief trauma surgeon at the hospital, told Fox News he expects all of the survivors in the hospital to survive.

The Orlando nightclub killing is considered one of America’s deadliest mass shooting.

-prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from Reuters). Twitter: devika_todi

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Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is Gushing in the Democratic Presidential Elections

“After Donald Trump won, we all pledged never to write off anybody again, and I’m sticking to that,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. Buttigieg has “intense support,” especially on Twitter. “I think he's impressed people favorably.”

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Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg greets voters during a campaign stop at Portsmouth Gas Light, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, March 8, 2019. VOA

Seems like just about no one can pronounce his name. But more and more people want to know about him.

Four months ago, Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was a flat line on the political landscape outside of, well, Indiana. But after announcing a presidential exploratory committee in mid-January, he’s everywhere: CNN. Vox. Stephen Colbert. Bill Maher. New York Times. Washington Post. Fox. And CNN again.

While lacking in stature among a Democratic political field strewn with U.S. senators, House members, a former governor, and likely, a former vice president, Buttigieg boasts an impressive resume.

The son of an immigrant from Malta, Buttigieg attended Harvard College around the same time as Facebook founder and fellow millennial Mark Zuckerberg. He received a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, spent seven months in Afghanistan in the U.S. Navy Reserves as an intelligence analyst and driver and worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. Reportedly he speaks seven languages, some of them fluently, including Spanish and Norwegian.

And in 2011, he was elected mayor of his hometown, South Bend, population 100,000.

“People are looking for something completely different,” Buttigieg told HBO talk-show host Maher when discussing his wildfire popularity a few weeks ago. “You could argue that it doesn’t get much different from [President Donald Trump] than a laid back, intellectual, young gay mayor from the Midwest.”

First openly-gay candidate for president

And while he would be the first openly gay candidate for president, recent polling shows that 70 percent of American voters said that wasn’t really an issue for them in deciding who to lead the country.

That has led Buttigieg to the No. 3 slot in two recent polls — behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — that ask people whom they would vote for if the election were held today. A relatively inexperienced newcomer to national politics, he’s bubbled up among a very large field of very experienced candidates very quickly.

And before formally announcing his candidacy — although Buttigieg has tweeted followers to mark their calendars for April 14 — Buttigieg has raised $7 million so far and assured himself a spot in the Democratic presidential debates that begin in June. By comparison, Sanders raised $18.2 million over the first six weeks of his campaigning while Sen. Kamala Harris of California raised $12 million.

“Pete Buttigieg and his husband [Chasten Glezman Buttigieg] actually have both been able to leverage Twitter and all sorts of social media to help them separate themselves from the rest of this slate of candidates, which is a lot of older folks, a lot of senators, and elected officials who have been around for a little while,” said Leah Askarinam, reporter and political analyst for Inside Elections.

In the checkboxes of qualifications for presidential candidate, Buttigieg seems to light up the words “millennial,” “war in Afghanistan,” “Harvard” and “gay.” Younger voters seem to delight in “Mayor Pete’s” candidacy as “looking more like me” than elder competitors. He talks about climate change and abolishing the electoral college. A devout Catholic, Buttigieg makes going to church sound philosophical and cool rather than predatory.

FILE - South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd about his Presidential run during the Democratic monthly breakfast held at the Circle of Friends Community Center in Greenville, S.C.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd about his Presidential run during the Democratic monthly breakfast held at the Circle of Friends Community Center in Greenville, S.C. VOA

Trends well with all ages

He trends well with older voters, as well, His youthful exuberance and firm grasp of the issues is appealing not only to younger voters, but older Americans, too, who view him as a fresh breath of air or a brilliant grandson.

But his lack of experience running anything more than a small Midwestern city is a persistent issue during interviews. Wildly popular Stephen Colbert of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which garners 3.1 million viewers per episode seemed a bit skeptical about a young newcomer becoming leader of the free world.

“Not as big a leap as reality show to president,” Colbert added, referring President Donald Trump’s ascension from the star of his reality television show “The Apprentice” to the White House. “But you have to admit, a big leap …”

Jousting with Bill Maher

Talk-show host Bill Maher pushed Buttigieg about how well he could straddle issues that independents and undecided voters could get behind, saying Buttigieg’s keyword issues to young voters — like transgender bathrooms — are off-putting or irrelevant to older voters. While the nation last year shifted from Baby Boomers being the largest voting block to Millennials taking that weight, the transition for dominance has not been complete: Despite increased voter turnout among Millennials in the 2018 midterm elections, more Boomers go to the polls than Millennials.

Buttigieg’s signature response is that unity will bring more voters back to the center, rather than the political polarization the country seems trapped in now. The coastal and metropolitan Democratic party can seem condescending to Midwesterners on the fence over national direction, he said, and that needs to change.

“Look, if a wealthy, coastal, liberal professional goes up to a guy pumping gas in South Bend, maybe wearing one of those [Make America Great Again] red hats and says, ‘You know, you’re voting against your economic interests.’ You know what that guy is gonna say? He’s gonna say, ‘So are you.’” he told Maher.

As his popularity and appeal surge from a post-industrialized city in the Midwest, as he typically describes South Bend, the question is often asked if Buttigieg has the wherewithal to upset Biden or Sanders in the Democratic primaries or unseat a Republican president in the general election.

“It’s fair to say that he has earned the respect of people across the political spectrum. He’s a can-do kind of guy,” said dean of political science Dave Campbell at Notre Dame University in South Bend, who has met Buttigieg but is not part of his campaign or cause. “He’s definitely the kind of candidate who can speak across a lot of divides.”

FILE - Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks with an AP reporter at his office in South Bend, Ind., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks with an AP reporter at his office in South Bend, Ind., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Rocky start in politics

“But he hasn’t had to face much Republican opposition,” he said. “South Bend is a blue dot in a very red sea.”

Buttigieg (whose name is pronounced boot-edge-edge) lost his bid for Indiana state treasurer in 2010. “I got clobbered. I got my head handed to me,” he chuckled to David Axelrod on Axelrod’s University of Chicago Institute of Politics podcast. Using failure as the best lesson, he said, he ran and won the mayor’s office in South Bend.

And now, improbably, Buttigieg has his eyes set on the biggest political prize of all.

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“After Donald Trump won, we all pledged never to write off anybody again, and I’m sticking to that,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. Buttigieg has “intense support,” especially on Twitter. “I think he’s impressed people favorably.”

“But that’s very different than actually winning the nomination, because there are real risks to nominating him for president. And I think that’s obvious to Democrats,” Sabato added.

“You know, there’s an old saying: Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line. I’ve learned that if Democrats fall in love with a candidate — and they might well do that with Pete Buttigieg — they can ignore all of the warnings and put him forward anyway. Well, it’s perfectly possible,” he said. “But one would think given their desire to beat Donald Trump, that they’d be less inclined to gamble on someone who, after all, has only had one public position. And that’s mayor of the 299th sized city in the United States.” (VOA)