Islamic State radio on Monday called the U.S.-born gunman who opened fire in a packed nightclub, killing at least 50 people, "one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America."
The attack, which happened early Sunday at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Federal authorities identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, 29, a New York-born resident of
Mateen acknowledged his support for the
Hopper said agents had investigated Mateen in 2013 and again in 2014 regarding terror threats, but lacked sufficient evidence in both cases to pursue charges. Mateen was of Afghan descent, according to media reports.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the tragedy began unfolding at 2:02 a.m., when three police officers engaged the suspect in a gun battle outside the club. A hostage situation then took place inside, and a SWAT team was called in, Mina said. Police received updates from patrons trapped in the club, and decided to storm the club at about 5 a.m. ET.
"The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub, it was a place of solidarity, empowerment, where people come together to raise awareness," he said.
The suspect's father, Mir Seddique Mateen, told NBC
G4S issued a statement expressing shock and sadness at the "unspeakable tragedy." The firm said Mateen had been employed since September 10, 2007, and that G4S was cooperating fully with the investigation.
Tributes poured in from around the world.
The organizers of the Pride in London event said a minute’s reflection will take place at the event on June 25. Revelers had been celebrating Gay Pride month across Orlando for nearly two weeks.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the victims.
Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara