No evidence so far that Omar Mateen was directed by IS, says Barack Obama

Written by | June 14, 2016 | 0

Washington: The gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay club was motivated by “extremist information distributed over the internet”, but does not appear to be part of a broader IS plot, US President Barack Obama said on Monday, calling it an apparent example of “homegrown extremism”.

“The one thing that we can say is that this is being treated as a terrorist investigation. It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama told reporters after receiving a briefing from the FBI on Monday morning.

All those materials are currently being searched, exploited, so that the FBI has a better sense of the pathway that the killer took in making a decision to launch this attack, he added.

“At this stage, we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally. It does appear that at the last minute, he announced allegiance to IS, but there’s no evidence so far that he was, in fact, directed by IS,” Obama said with the FBI Director James Comey sitting by his side.

“Also, at this stage, there’s no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot. In that sense, it appears to be similar to what we saw in San Bernardino, but we don’t yet know. And this is part of what is going to be important in terms of the investigation,” Obama said.
“As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of home-grown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time,” he said.

“It also appears that he was able to obtain these weapons legally, because he did not have a criminal record that, in some ways, would prohibit him from purchasing these weapons. It appears that one of those weapons he was able to just carry out of the store, an assault rifle, a handgun, a Glock, which had a lot of clips in it. He was apparently required to wait for three days under Florida law,” he said.
But it does indicate the degree to which it was not difficult for him to obtain these kinds of weapons, he added.
Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old Afghan-origin gunman, killed at least 50 people at the gay nightclub in Orlando in US’ deadliest mass shooting incident.
In a radio bulletin, the IS claimed that the attack on the “crusader gathering” was carried out by “one of the soldiers of the caliphate”.
“At the end of the day, this is something that we are going to have to grapple with, making sure that even as we go after IS and other extremist organisations overseas, even as we hit their leadership, even as we go after their infrastructure, even as we take, you know, key personnel off the field, even as we disrupt external plots, that one of the biggest challenges we are going to have is this kind of propaganda and perversions of Islam that you see generated on the internet,” he said.
The capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals or weak individuals, and seeing them motivated then to take actions against people here in the US and elsewhere in the world that are tragic, said the US President.
Obama said countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure that they are disrupting more extensive plots engineered from the outside.
“We are also going to have to make sure that we think about the risks we are willing to take by being so lax in how we make very powerful firearms available to people in this country,” he said.
“This is something that I have talked about for a very long time. You know, my concern is that we start getting into a debate, as has happened in the past, which is an either/or debate, and the suggestion is either we think about something as terrorism and we ignore the problems with easy access to firearms or it’s all about firearms and we ignore the role, the very real role, that organisations like IS have in generating extremist views inside this country,” he added.
It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and, Obama asserted arguing that case of going after these terrorist organisations and hit them hard.
“We have to counter extremism, but we also have to make sure that it’s not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons to get at them,” he said.
He said the motivation of the shooter is not known yet.
“I think we don’t yet know the motivations, but here is what we do know, is organisations like IS or Al-Qaeda or those who have perverted Islam and created these radical, nihilistic, vicious organisations, one of the groups that they target are gays and lesbians because they believe that they do not abide by their attitudes towards sexuality. Now, we also know these are organisations that think it’s fine to take captive women and enslave them and rape them,” he said.
“So there clearly are connections between the attitudes of an organisation like this and their attitudes towards tolerance and pluralism and a belief that all people are treated equally regardless of sexual orientation. That is something threatening to them. Women being empowered is threatening to them,” Obama said.

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