ORLANDO • The father of Omar Mateen, the man identified as the killer in the fatal Orlando gay club shooting, has told the media that the attack "has nothing to do with religion" after the authorities said his son has leanings towards militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mr Mir Seddique, Omar's father, told NBC News he believed his son was provoked into carrying out the attack after seeing two men kissing in Miami a few months ago.
"We are saying we are apologising for the whole incident. We weren't aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country," Mr Seddique said. Officials warned that the extremist connection required further investigation.
The attack coincided with a gay pride month in the US, with festive marches and events being held all over the country including in Orlando last week.
Before 2am Orlando time
Omar Mateen, from Port St Lucie, a city 190km from Orlando, parks his van outside Pulse. 2.02am He enters the club armed with an AR-15-type assault weapon, a handgun and many rounds of ammunition, and opens fire, according to Orlando police chief John Mina.
An off-duty officer working in security at the club confronts Omar and engages in a "gun battle". The gunman, who was outside the club at some point after the initial shots were fired, returns and takes some people hostage. Police then marshal forces, bringing in a Swat team and an armoured vehicle.
Later there was contact with the gunman inside, police chief Mina says.
It is unknown, he adds, whether the gunman was killing others inside the club as the authorities prepared cautiously for a confrontation. "Any time we have a hostage situation, we're definitely going to use extreme measures to make sure we have enough personnel on the scene," Mr Mina says.
A post on the club's Facebook page read: "Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running." At some point, police hear from inside the building that at least 15 people are hiding in a toilet.
Police begin an attempt to rescue the hostages. They detonate two explosives to distract the gunman. Nine officers enter the club, and shots are again exchanged.
Mateen is killed. One officer is shot in the head, but his Kevlar helmet saves him from serious injury, says Mr Mina.
NEW YORK TIMES
Omar, born in 1986, was a US citizen of Afghan descent and had lived in Port St Lucie, Florida.
CNN reported that he worked as a security guard in Fort Pierce and drove to Orlando in a rented car to carry out the attack. He was organised and well-prepared, police said.
Federal law enforcement officials said they have found no indication so far that the attacker was linked to any wider organisation, though they and the police were investigating several possible terrorism angles, both overseas and in the United States.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News the attacker was "on the radar" of US officials for some time but was not the target of a specific investigation.
Past terrorist attacks such as the massacre last December in San Bernardino, California, have been carried out in the name of Islam by people who were "self-radicalised", apparently having no direct ties to any organisation, but inspired by groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
ISIS, in particular, has encouraged "lone wolf" attacks in the West, specifically the US, a point reinforced recently by the group's spokesman in his annual pre-Ramadan speech.
The US authorities said after the shooting that they are "confident" there are no additional threats to the country.
The toll of dead and injured, standing so far at 50 and 53 respectively, far exceeded the 32 people killed at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the 26 gunned down at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES