France stabbing suspect: ‘I just killed a police officer’
PARIS (AP) — In a video released by the Islamic State group and recorded in the suburban Paris home of his victims, a former jihadi recruiter confessed to killing a police officer and his female companion and listed other prominent people he planned to target.
The attack late Monday touched already raw nerves. It recalled elements of the Orlando, Florida, killings at a gay nightclub days earlier, and revived French concerns about the IS threat after the group targeted Paris in November, killing 130 people. A state of emergency is still in place, and 90,000 security forces are now deployed to protect the European Championship soccer tournament taking place across France.
On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande urged heightened vigilance after what he said was “incontestably a terrorist act.”
The video reflects a pattern within IS of individuals pledging allegiance and then staging attacks that the extremist group calls its own — and the violence shows the group’s continued ability to attract followers despite being under attack in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
It was as surprising as it was bloody.
Victim vignettes: Some contacted family in final moments
A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside Pulse, a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday, leaving at least 49 people dead in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Here are stories of some of the victims.
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, was quiet but knew how to treat guests at Walt Disney World, where he worked as a seasonal employee, a former co-worker said.
“He was one of the kindest people you could meet,” co-worker Kenneth Berrios told the Orlando Sentinel. “We had students from the London program . and Jerry was always willing to give rides to them and show them around town.”
Wright “was a great guy to work with,” former co-worker Scott Dickison said. “He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face.”
Clinton and Sanders to meet as DC marks the final primary
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are ending the primary calendar with a face-to-face meeting on Tuesday that could set the tone for Democratic unity and next month’s party convention in Philadelphia.
Clinton and Sanders plan to meet on the night of the final presidential primary in the District of Columbia, a contest that will have no bearing on Clinton’s role as the presumptive nominee but marks a transition in the lengthy primary fight between the two rivals.
The Vermont senator vowed again Tuesday to do all he can to prevent Republican Donald Trump from reaching the White House but declined to endorse Clinton. Sanders has said the private meeting will help him determine how committed Clinton will be to the policy issues he has staked out during his 13-month campaign.
“Our goal must not be to allow politicians, Donald Trump or anyone else, to divide us,” Sanders said outside his Washington headquarters Tuesday, telling reporters he will continue to “fight as hard as we can” to transform the Democratic Party.
Sanders said he would push for new leadership in the Democratic National Committee — his campaign has sparred with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s chair — a progressive platform in the summer convention and electoral changes such as primaries that allow independents to participate and the elimination of superdelegates.
FBI looking at whether Orlando gunman had a secret gay life
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The murky picture of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen grew more complex Tuesday with word that the FBI is investigating whether he had been a regular at the gay dance club he attacked and had been living a secret life as a gay man.
As victims described the bloody horror of the massacre during a riveting hospital news conference, investigators continued to gather information on the 29-year-old American-born Muslim — and took a close look at his wife, too — for clues to the attack that left 49 victims dead.
An official who was briefed on the progress of the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation said authorities believe Mateen’s wife knew about the plot ahead of time, but they are reluctant to charge her on that basis alone.
A number of possible explanations and motives for the bloodbath have emerged, with Mateen professing allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the attack, his ex-wife saying he was mentally ill, and his father suggesting he was driven by hatred of gays.
On Tuesday, a U.S. official said the FBI is looking into a flurry of news reports quoting patrons of the Pulse as saying that Mateen frequented the nightspot and reached out to men on gay dating apps. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
‘Highly offensive:’ GOP lawmakers distance selves from Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dismayed Republicans scrambled for cover Tuesday from Donald Trump’s inflammatory response to the Orlando massacre, while President Barack Obama and Democrat Hillary Clinton delivered fiery denunciations that underscored the potential peril for the GOP.
Republican hopes are fading for a new, “more presidential” Trump as the party’s divisions around him grow ever more acute.
Clinton, campaigning in Pittsburgh, said, “We don’t need conspiracy theories and pathological self-congratulations. We need leadership and concrete plans because we are facing a brutal enemy.”
In Washington, Obama said of Muslim-Americans: “Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to discriminate against them because of their faith?” After meeting with counterterrorism officials, a stern-faced Obama said: “We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want.”
Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans clearly did not agree with him. They were nearly as unsparing as the Democrats in their criticism of his boundary-pushing response Monday to the killing of 49 patrons at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, by an American-born Muslim who pledged loyalty to the Islamic State group.
A night of terror at club Pulse: One young woman’s story
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Patience Carter lay bleeding on the floor of the bathroom in club Pulse. She recalled looking into the stall next to her, and seeing bloody handprints on the wall and people draped over a toilet. Some were dead, others moaned in agony. She turned her head to see her best friend, lifeless.
Then she heard the voice.
“Where is it?” the man demanded when he heard a ringing cell phone. “Give it up.”
She was safe now — reclining in a hospital chair, a white blanket draped over her lap and legs as she told her story Tuesday to a packed news conference at an Orlando hospital. Her words transported a rapt audience to the horrific moments of early Sunday, when a nightclub turned into a slaughterhouse.
Carter, a 20-year-old Philadelphian, was visiting Florida for the first time, vacationing with her two friends. Her friends’ parents drove them to Pulse that evening after they saw it had five-star reviews on Google. When they walked in, they started chatting with others immediately.
‘Not the America we want:’ Obama blasts Trump’s Muslim plans
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama angrily denounced Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric on Tuesday, blasting the views of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as a threat to American security and a menacing echo of some of the most shameful moments in U.S. history.
Obama’s rebuke was his most searing yet of the man seeking to take his seat in the Oval Office. While the president has frequently dismissed Trump as a buffoon or a huckster, this time he challenged the former reality television star as a “dangerous” threat to the nation’s safety, religious freedom and diversity.
“That’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our democratic ideals,” Obama declared in remarks that had been scheduled as simply updating the public on the counter-Islamic State campaign.
Obama walked listeners through a familiar litany of battlefield successes, but then came another message. Growing more animated as he spoke, Obama said Trump’s “loose talk and sloppiness” could lead to discrimination and targeting of ethnic and religious minorities.
“We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it,” Obama said. “We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens and it has been a shameful part of our history.”
Did Islamic State claim credit for latest attacks too soon?
PARIS (AP) — It took just a few hours for the Islamic State group’s opportunistic propaganda machine to capitalize on the latest bloodshed in Florida and in France, with messages claiming the two attackers as its own. It may take the group longer to sort through the implications of a killer whose backstory of conflicted sexuality and heavy drinking is at odds with a carefully crafted public image of its fighters.
But whether the links were direct or merely aspirational, they were enough to thrust IS to the center of the U.S. presidential race and the debate over the role of Islam in the world. They were enough to cause France to re-examine who should be expelled over links to extremism.
The group’s apocalyptic message is aimed as much at Muslims living in the West as it is at non-Muslims, hoping to persuade an undecided audience to adopt its extremist views — and reject Western ideals of pluralism and tolerance, preferably with bombs and bullets. Facing defeat on the battlefield, it is taking victories where it can find them.
The attack on a gay nightclub in Florida by an American-born Muslim during Ramadan and the stabbing of two police officials in France two days later would initially appear to dovetail perfectly with that worldview. Omar Mateen’s killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando tapped into deep fears that extremists are lying in wait to prey upon the West at home — fears that Islamic State fans at every available opportunity.
“The uncomfortable reality is that attacks such as the one in Orlando become ‘Islamic State attacks’ simply because the attackers declare them as such. The validity of their assertions matters less than the consequences of their actions,” according to an analysis Tuesday by the Soufan Group security consultancy. “Mateen may have sought to catapult his reputation from that of a homophobic mass-murderer to a ‘soldier of the caliphate,’ merely by parroting the group’s name.”
Orlando massacre brings Latino, LGBT communities together
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — When the names of the victims in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history are read aloud at memorials around the world, the surnames stand out:
Most of the 49 people shot and killed were Hispanic, and the tragedy has left Florida’s Latino community heartbroken over the loss of young lives. Many were also gay — which means that Saturday evening at Pulse was the fateful intersection of two tight-knit communities, ones that have existed until recently on the fringes of central Florida’s society.
Island mourns loss of 23 Puerto Ricans slain in Orlando club
PONCE, Puerto Rico (AP) — Nearly half of the people slain in an Orlando nightclub were Puerto Ricans, the island’s justice secretary said Tuesday, compounding the shock for the territory’s gay community and society as a whole.
Cesar Miranda, the island’s justice secretary, said 23 Puerto Ricans were among the 49 people killed, though it was not immediately clear how many were born on the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rican parents and how many had moved there from the island.
“Faced with this loss, I have been forced to reflect on all the social problems that led to this massacre: intolerance about gender preferences , discrimination against Latin Americans in the United States and broad access to weapons in that country,” he said. “That is why we must reaffirm our commitment to these three fronts in Puerto Rico and unite with our diaspora and the American people to continue taking steps toward equity.”
Roberto Padua, sub-secretary of Puerto Rico’s State Department, said in a phone interview that his agency is helping families bring the bodies of their loved ones back to the island.
He said authorities don’t know yet how many burials will take place in Puerto Rico, but that several families have requested help.