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WASHINGTON, USA – A somber President Barack Obama on Sunday, June 12, expressed grief and outrage at the “horrific massacre” of 50 late-night revelers at an Orlando gay club, branding it an act of terror and hate.
“We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” Obama said.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in US history. In addition to the 50 killed, 53 people were wounded, some of them critically.
During his nearly 8 years in office, Obama has been forced to issue heartfelt statements after more than a dozen previous mass shootings.
He frequently refers to a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 young children and 6 adults were killed, as the worst day of his presidency.
But this attack has fanned the flames on several raging issues in US political and cultural life, in the midst of a bitter presidential election campaign – from the fight against jihadists, to the battle over gay rights, to the seemingly never-ending debate over gun control.
For now Obama was careful not to inject yet more politics into the issue.
He noted only that “the shooter was apparently armed with a hand gun and a powerful assault rifle.”
“We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer,” he added, saying that the FBI was nonetheless threating the attack as an “act of terror.”
“We must spare no effort to determine what, if any, inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.”
The gunman has been named as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent.
US media have suggested he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a call to emergency responders shortly before the massacre began.
The “Pulse” nightclub was a well-known haunt for gay party-goers.
Obama said “this is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends and fellow Americans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
“The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance, sing, and live.”
The flag at the White House was lowered to half-staff a few moments later, and Obama ordered all government buildings to do the same.
His political foes were quick to point out that Obama has repeatedly refused to associate such attacks with Islam.
“Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!” Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said on Twitter. – Rappler.com