Donald Trump seizes on Orlando tragedy to remake his case for curbing US immigration

US officials try to determine whether shooter acted entirely alone or had outside help

By David Usborne
New York and Orlando
,Andrew Buncombe@AndrewBuncombe
Monday 13 June 2016 22:05
Investigators return to the wreckage of Pulse
Investigators return to the wreckage of Pulse

Donald Trump has reiterated his intention to answer terror threats in the United States by shutting down its borders, vowing to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there's a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies”.

In a speech in New Hampshire billed as a response to the Orlando gay club massacre, Mr Trump asserted that “thousands and thousands of people, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer” are pouring into the US, and that the ban “will be lifted when and as a nation we are in a position to properly and perfectly screen these people coming into our country.”

He cast this alleged influx of would-be killers in mythological terms. “This could be a better, bigger, more horrible version than the legendary Trojan Horse ever was,” a breathless Mr Trump said, while residents of Orlando struggled to come to grips with the worst mass shooting in US history.

Mr Trump did not say whether he was modulating or adding to his original plan to block entry to the US for all Muslims. While he spent most of his speech tying immigration and domestic terror together, he failed to note that the accused Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, had never needed to enter the US; he was a US citizen born in New York to Afghan migrants.

In a competing address in Cleveland, Ohio, Hillary Clinton said she would work to track down “lone wolf” terrorists when she becomes president. She forcefully offered support to the gay and lesbian community which was directly targeted in the Orlando massacre, and took the opportunity to repeat her call for stricter gun laws. ““I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets,” she said.

In London, thousands poured into Old Compton Street in the capital’s traditional gay area to express solidarity from the across the Atlantic - a show of support that many in the LGBT in the US will doubtless find touching, even surprising. The London Gay Men’s Chorus gathered at the heart of the throng and sang a version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Waters.

As officials in Orlando started to release the names of some of the 49 people who lost their lives in the Florida nightclub carnage, the authorities were desperately trying to determine whether the gunman received any help to launch his devastating assault.

With Isis claiming Mateen as a “soldier of the Caliphate”, both President Barack Obama and the head of the FBI sought to assure the public everything was being done to keep them safe.

FBI Director James Comey said authorities still were trying to determine the motives of 29-year-old Mateen, a security guard who had been placed under investigation by officials in 2013 but cleared of suspicion. Yet Mr Comey, who will brief Congress on the tragedy on Tuesday, said while there was no indication he was part of an organised group, he could have been inspired by Isis or other Islamic extremists.

“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” said Mr Obama. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to [Isis] but there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by [Isis] or that it was part of a larger plot.” That might be something of a moot point.

There's were two minutes' silence for Orlando. Later songs were sung

Some will be heartened that the divorced father who regularly attended Friday prayers at his mosque, was not part of a the sort of outfit that struck Paris with lethal force last year. Yet others will be concerned that a young man, from “a good family”, was for some reason inspired to launch such staggering slaughter, armed with weapons he was able to legally buy just days before.

The Pulse nightclub was hugely popular among the LGBT community and while many in Orlando have sought to suggest the mass shooting was an attack on the entire community, it was gay and transgender people who suffered the brunt of Mateen’s apparent fury.

On Sunday night, Calissa, 29, and Mimi, 27, were close to the site of the club, trying to find out information about those who had been inside. They themselves had been there the night before and had been due to go to the club on Saturday night as well until they were forced to change plans. “I’m just freaking out,” said Mimi.

In the coming days, as communities in Orlando and beyond begin to honour and bury their dead, investigators will dig further into the background of Mateen in a search for clues. On Sunday they searched his home in the coastal town of Fort Pierce, and that of his parents in nearby Port St Lucie

Mateen’s father said his son should not have carried out the massacre because “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality.”

In a message posted to Facebook shortly after midnight, Seddique Mateen, who lives in Florida, said his his child a was a “good son and an educated son”.

“He had a child and a wife, and was very dignified, meaning he had respect for his parents,” he wrote. “I don’t know what caused him to shoot last night.”

While there were no reports that Mateen had any sort of accomplice when he stormed into the nightclub in central Florida in the early hours of Sunday - an attack that ended with a three hour siege and him being shot dead by police - officials said they were looking for clues as to whether anyone had worked with to plan the attack.

“There is an investigation of other persons. We are working as diligently as we can on that,” US prosecutor Lee Bentley told reporters. “If anyone else was involved in this crime, they will be prosecuted.”

In Washington, Mr Comey said officials had evidence that Mateen had been radicalised. “There are strong indications of radicalisation by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations,” he said. “We’re highly confident this killer was radicalised at least in some part through the internet.”

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