Barack Obama meets Orlando massacre survivors, assails homegrownterrorism

President Barack Obama on Thursday met survivors of a massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub and relatives of the 49 people killed and said the United States (US) must act to control gun violence and fight what he called homegrown terrorism.
"I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, 'Why does this keep happening?'," Obama told reporters, before urging Congress to pass measures to make it harder to legally acquire high-powered weapons like the semi-automatic rifle used in the attack on Sunday. "I'm pleased to hear that the Senate will hold votes on preventing individuals with possible terrorist ties from buying guns," he said.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Orlando, Florida, four days after a US-born gunman claiming allegiance to various Islamist militant groups carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
During the shooting rampage the gunman, Omar Mateen, exchanged text messages with his wife, it was reported on Thursday, as well as posting on Facebook and placing a phone call to a television station. Police killed Mateen, 29, a US citizen born in New York to Afghan immigrants.
Obama, who has visited mass shooting victims' families in towns from San Bernardino, California, to Newtown, Connecticut, since he has been president, laid flowers at a memorial for the victims of the attack on the Pulse nightclub.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but US officials have said they do not believe Mateen was assisted from abroad. CIA Director John Brennan told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday that the agency had "not been able to uncover any direct link" between Mateen and militants abroad. A married couple also claiming allegiance to Islamic State shot dead 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December.
: President Barack Obama spends the afternoon in Orlando with #Pulse victims' families, visits memorial
— Andrew O'Brien (@aobrien7) June 16, 2016


Wakes were held on Thursday for at least four victims - Kimberly Morris, Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera and Roy Fernandez, as Orlando braced for what was expected to be two weeks of somber events.
More than 300 people, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, came to the viewing for Ortiz-Rivera, who was born in Dorado, Puerto Rico. He was 36 when he was killed during a night of dancing to celebrate a friend's new house - his husband had stayed home that night in the couple's apartment. "He was in a Snapchat video that's out there, dancing away, so we know he had some fun before the madness," said his cousin, Orlando Gonzalez.
23 of the 53 wounded remained hospitalised, six in critical condition, according to the Orlando Regional Medical Centre.
One of Mateen's Facebook messages during the attack, apparently referring to air strikes against Islamic State by the United States and its allies, said: "You kill innocent women and children by doing us air strikes ... now taste the Islamic State vengeance," according to US Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, who asked Facebook to turn over material from Mateen's accounts.
CNN reported, citing a law enforcement official it did not identify, that Mateen had also exchanged text messages with his wife, Noor Salman, during the three hours he was holed up in a bathroom inside the nightclub. Salman is under investigation to find out whether she knew about Mateen's plans ahead of time.
Florida news website TCPalmreported that Mateen, who worked as a security guard, was frequently suspended while he was in junior high and high school, and was passed to the next grade despite poor academic performance. It cited records from St. Lucie County schools.



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