Christine Leinonen, 58, waits outside a hospital for information
 about her son, Christopher, who was reported missing after
the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. (AFP)

NYTNS and Agencies, TT, Orlando, June 12:  • 50 shot dead in deadliest mass shooting in US history … • Massacre in gay nightclub in Orlando, lone gunman killed …• An act of terror and an act of hate, says Obama ; A gunman who declared allegiance to the Islamic State through a 911 call killed 50 people and wounded 53 in a crowded gay nightclub early today in the worst mass-shooting slaughter in American history.

Police killed the shooter, identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a Florida resident and US citizen who was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan.
The gunman made the 911 call shortly before the attacks and swore allegiance to the Islamic State. He also “referenced” the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013.
The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said a “fighter” from the group was responsible for the shooting.
But officials cautioned that even if Mateen had been inspired by the group, there was no indication so far that it had trained or instructed him, or had any direct connection with him. A pair who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December also proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State, but investigators do not believe they had any contact with the group.
Mir Seddique, the father of the gunman, said he believed his son was motivated by hatred of gays – not by his religion. “This had nothing to do with religion,” Seddique told NBC News. “He saw (in Miami) two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry.”
A former wife of the suspect, who left him in 2011 fearing for her life, said he was violently abusive. “He was not a stable person,” the ex-wife told The Washington Post. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”
President Barack Obama described the attack as “an act of terror” and “an act of hate”. “Although it is still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate,” Obama said.
Omar Mateen, 29, in an undated photo
 released by Orlando police
Mateen, who court records show was born in New York and had been married and divorced at least once, had drawn the attention of the FBI in the past.
Mateen had been investigated twice for possible connections to terrorism, the bureau said, but no ties could be confirmed.
“The FBI first became aware of him in 2013 when he made inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible terrorist ties” but could not find any incriminating evidence, said Ronald Hopper, an assistant agent in charge of the bureau’s Tampa Division.
In 2014, the bureau investigated him again, for possible ties to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American who grew up in Florida but went to Syria to fight for extremists and detonated a suicide bomb.
Agent Hopper said the bureau concluded that the contact between the two men was minimal, and that Mateen “did not constitute a substantive threat at that time”.
The Florida apartment where shooting suspect Omar Mateen is believed
to have lived. (AFP)
The suspicions did not prevent Mateen from working as a security guard, or from buying guns. He legally bought a long gun and a pistol in the last week or two, though it was not clear whether those were the weapons used in the assault.
The killer stormed the Pulse nightclub armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and a handgun around 2am while more than 300 people were inside dancing and drinking, John Mina, the Orlando police chief, said.
The club posted a message on its Facebook page around 3am: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
Mateen shot about one-third of the people in the packed club, mowing down patrons while many others, some of them bleeding, fled down the darkened streets of the surrounding neighbourhood.
The result was the worst terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001, and the deadliest attack in US history on a specifically gay gathering. The toll of the dead and injured far exceeds those of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, where 32 people were killed, and the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 were killed.
The gunman holed up inside with dozens of people effectively held hostage, some of them hiding in a restroom frantically calling for help, until about 5am when a police SWAT team, using an armoured vehicle and stun grenades, raided the building and killed him.
Feras Ismail, TT, Washington, June 12: Pulse, the scene of the worst terror attack in the US since 9/11, is just a 20-minute drive from Disney World, the most visited vacation resort in the world.
“It’s in an area with a lot of strip malls and shopping centres,” Raees Uzhunnan, a resident of Orlando, said over the phone today. “The area is alive at night.”
Uzhunnan, an Indian American who works at the Wyndham Resorts, roughly 14km from the shooting scene, said he had been in the area a number of times even though he has never visited the club.
Across the South Orange Avenue, where Pulse is located, there is a bunch of popular eateries, including Subway, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts and Einstein Bros Bagels. A fire station is a block away.
It wasn’t clear if any of the eateries was open when the massacre began at 2am.
Orlando, in central Florida, is the fourth largest city in the state and the greater Orlando metropolitan area is home to roughly 2.4 million, which makes it the 24th largest metropolitan area in the US. The city’s economy is dependent on Disney World, which alone attracts more than 52 million visitors a year.
Pulse, which calls itself “the hottest gay bar in Orlando”, is one of the city’s most popular such clubs and is known for hosting themed performances. At the time of the shooting, it was hosting a “Latin Night” during the Pride Month of June, when the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, considered the tipping point of the gay liberation movement in the US, are commemorated.
The club was opened 12 years ago by Barbara Poma and her friend Ron Legler. The two coined the name “Pulse” to keep alive the name of John Poma, Barbara’s brother, who had died of AIDS in 1991. The name stands for “John’s heartbeat – as a club that is John’s inspiration, where he is kept alive in the eyes of his friends and family”, its website says.
Pulse also hosts awareness campaigns about HIV-prevention and works with a number of organisations, including Make A Wish and Breast Cancer Awareness. Its popularity is evident on the Internet.
“This is my spot and always will be in Orlando,” one reviewer wrote on Yelp, the review site. “Clean and beautiful.”
Orlando, known as “The City Beautiful”, was thoroughly unprepared for an attack like this, judging by the reaction of city officials, although federal agencies have been on constant alert since 9/11. “We are dealing with something we never imagined,” mayor Buddy Dyer wrote on the city’s official website this morning.