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#OrlandoShooting: Gunman Behind Shooting That Killed 50 ‘Named as Omar Mateen’

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The gunman behind a suspected terrorist attack that killed 50 people at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando is believed to be a US citizen of Afghan heritage named as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man from Florida.

He is alleged to have opened fire at the Pulse Club in the early hours of Sunday, taking hostages, killing many and hospitalising 53. Raising the alarm in the early hours of Sunday morning, staff at the venue posted on Facebook: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running”. .

Orlando confirmed police said the shooting was being treated as an “act of domestic terrorism” and had resulted in mass casualties, urging people to stay away from the area.

Several news outlets identified the gunman as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old from Fort Pierce, Florida. The FBI said it had a “positive identification” of the shooter though it has not yet released a name as it is in the process of notifying his family.

The gunman was killed during a shootout with police, as they broke into the nightclub to rescue 30 people held hostage there. No motive for the attack has been offered by police. The Guardian has not been able to independently verify the identity of the shooter.

Police initially said about 20 people had been killed in the attack, with 42 injured, but later revised the death toll up to 50, with 53 hospitalised, including one police officer who had been shot in the head but whose “life had been saved by his Kevlar helmet”. They confirmed the gunman was armed with an assault rifle, handgun and “some kind of device”.

In a press conference on Sunday morning, an FBI spokesman said investigators believed the attacker may have had extremist beliefs, and would consider possible links to Isis, but cautioned they were pursuing multiple leads.

An explosion was heard at the club at about 5am local time, which police said was a “distractionary device” used as part of the rescue mission to get to the hostages. The explosion caused some panic on the ground, which led to Orlando police tweeting to say it had been a “controlled explosion” and warning media about reporting inaccuracies.

Police confirmed the incident began at 2am when the gunman started firing and an officer on duty at the club exchanged shots with him. They said it then descended into a “hostage situation”. The situation was resolved three hours later when a Swat team stormed the nightclub after receiving messages from club patrons who were hiding in the club while the gunman was still at large.

“A little after 0500 hours we made a decision to go in and conduct a rescue, we were being contacted by people in the bathroom, about 15 people, our biggest concern was future loss of life,” said John Mina, the chief of police.

Several explosives and an armoured vehicle were used to break through a wall of the nightclub and rescue approximately 30 hostages. The suspect was shot by a police officer during this intervention.

Mina said they were still trying to identify the gunman, but he appears to have been “well-organised”. They could not confirm if the man was operating as a lone wolf or in coordination with others, but believe there is no increased threat to Orlando or the surrounding areas. 

Police confirmed several “suspicious devices” were found in and around the nightclub, including one on the gunman and one on his car.

“This is an incident, as I see it, that we can definitely classify as a domestic terrorism incident,” said the Orange County sheriff, Jerry Demings.

When asked if the suspect had any affiliation with Islamic State, the FBI assistant agent in charge, Ron Hopper, said: “We do have suspicions that the individual may have leanings toward that ideology.” Though when pushed as to what led him to believe that, he clarified that all possibilities were being investigated.

Earlier in the evening one witness told Sky News there had been more than 100 people inside the venue for the club’s Latin night when the gunman entered the building and began firing into the ceiling and into the crowd. 

Richard Negroni said: “We just heard shots, it was less than a minute, it felt longer. There was a brief pause and we just ran. Everybody was just faces to the floor. I had someone over me, I really didn’t see [how many gunmen there were]. All I can tell you was the club was packed, there were over 100 people there, if the gunman came in through the front door people were injured or worse.”

In a Facebook post, Negroni wrote that the shooter opened fire at about 2am and “people on the dancefloor and bar got down on the floor”. He said some people near the bar and back exit managed to escape quickly.

Mina Justice told the Associated Press that her 30-year-old son Eddie, who was in the club when the attack took place, texted her asking her to call the police. Justice said Eddie had run into a bathroom to hide. He then texted her: “He’s coming.”

The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,’” she said. “That was the last conversation.”

Mayor Buddy Dyer praised the efforts of law enforcement agencies, saying that “many were saved by [their] heroic efforts”.”We had a crime that will have a lasting effect, we need to stand strong, we need to support victims and their families,” he said.

 The scene of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Photograph: EPA

The scene of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Photograph: EPA

Family members were waiting throughout the morning to hear about the safety of their loved ones. Many of the injured were brought to the Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) located close to the nightclub and they announced in the early hours of the morning that they were in “lockdown” and only admitting entry to “essential workers”. They have since instructed those who believe their family might have been brought there to come to the family meeting area at the hospital.

Staff at the club posted a message on Facebook thanking people for their concern during the night’s “tragic event”.

“As soon as we have any information we will update everyone,” read the Facebook statement. “Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”

 People and police at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Photograph: EPA

People and police at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Photograph: EPA

The attack comes just days after the fatal shooting of Voice contestant Christina Grimmie in Orlando, while she was signing autographs for fans after a show.

Kevin James Loibl has been named by police as the shooter in that incident and said the 26-year-old travelled to Orlando from his home in St Petersburg, Florida, about two hours’ drive away, with the intention of carrying out the crime. 

Police confirmed there was no known connection between the two shootings.

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

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McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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