Supporters of the victims of the recent mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub attend a vigil at Lake Eola Park, Sunday, June 19, 2016, Orlando, Fla. Tens of thousands of people attended the vigil.
Supporters of the victims of the recent mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub attend a vigil at Lake Eola Park, Sunday, June 19, 2016, Orlando, Fla. Tens of thousands of people attended the vigil. AP Photo - John Raoux

Orlando gunman's 911 calls made public

THE Orlando gunman spoke in Arabic to a police negotiator, threatened to strap hostages into explosive vests and claimed he was acting to try and stopping the US "bombing Syria and Iraq". He pledged his actions to Isis.

Eight days after Omar Mateen stormed in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and launched an attack that left 49 people dead and wounded 40 others, officials released partial transcripts of conversation between police and the gunman.

The first call came more than a half hour after shots rang out, when Mateen, speaking in Arabic, told a 911 operator: "Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God."

He added: "I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings."

Those communications, along with Facebook posts Mateen made before and during the shooting, along with text messages he exchanged with his wife, add to the public understanding of the final hours of during his life.

Mateen's name and the groups and people to whom he pledged allegiance were initially omitted from the excerpt. But FBI special agent Ron Hopper told reporters on Monday: "He described himself as an Islamic solider bent on harming America." Later, a decision was to made to release all of the coversation and it revealed that Mateen had said: "I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State."

He said that the authorities were not proving the audio recording of the calls, but said that Mateen had spoken in a "calm" manner. The transcript suggests that for a period of three hours there were no gun shots fired, a period during which negotiators sought to talk with the gunman.

The transcripts reveal that the 29-year-old paused during his killing spree to telephone emergency dispatchers, and to post messages on Facebook.

"You people are gonna get it, and I'm gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid," he said during one call, according to the Associated Press.

Mateen told the emergency dispatcher he was wearing an explosive vest like the kind they "used in France", apparently referring to the deadly assault in Paris last November by Islamic militants. As victims were fleeing the club, they told police outside that the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes.

The release came a day after tens of thousands of people held a candlelight vigil in the heart of downtown Orlando for the victims who died in the massacre. The victims also were remembered at church services and at makeshift memorials throughout Orlando.

"As a community, it's important that we gather together to show our support because only together can we move forward," Gabrielle Claire, a musician and Universal Orlando worker who says she knew three Pulse victims who died, told Reuters.

"We don't have to be afraid of holding each other. We don't have to be afraid of saying to other people, 'I'm here for you'."

Meanwhile, hospital officials said four people remained in critical condition.


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