Vigils held for Orlando shooting victims

The Eiffel Tower was lit up in tribute to the Orlando victims
The Eiffel Tower was lit up in tribute to the Orlando victims
The Eiffel Tower was lit up in tribute to the Orlando victims

Vigils have been held in Orlando, Florida, and around the world for the victims of Sunday’s deadly gun attack on a gay nightclub.

A Muslim cleric told those attending the Orlando event that Muslims stood united with them against “the ideology of hatred, death and destruction”.

Similar gatherings have been held in countries including France, Australia, the UK and Germany.

The attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub left 49 people dead and dozens wounded.

US authorities say gunman Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State (IS) shortly before the attack.

Several Pulse customers have told US media that Mateen was a regular visitor to the nightclub.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Ty Smith told the Orlando Sentinel.

Other witnesses said they recognised him from gay dating apps.

President Barack Obama is due to travel to Orlando on Thursday to pay his respects to the victims.

Thousands of people gathered in central Orlando on Monday night, holding candles and flowers in tribute to the victims.

Imam Muhammad Musri, of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said the attack had been “an act of terror, an act of hate”.

“We condemn the ideology of hate and death and destruction and we call for all Muslim leaders and communities across this nation and across the world to stand up and to deal with this cancer and to remove it once and for all,” he said.

The vigil was held outside the area’s main performing arts venue, the Dr Phillips Center, which has become the site of a makeshift memorial.

“Pulse gave me confidence, made me realise I was normal and so much like everyone else,” said Cathleen Daus, a former employee at the club who attended the vigil.

In New York, the lights of the Empire State Building were turned off as thousands attended a memorial event for the Orlando victims.

A vigil was also held in London’s Soho district, the hub of the city’s gay community, and there were cheers as 49 balloons were released, one for each of those who died.

Australia’s landmark Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit in the rainbow colours of the gay community flag as hundreds gathered to pay tribute.

“This could have happened anywhere,” Paul Savage told AFP news agency at the candlelit vigil.

Paris’s Eiffel Tower was also lit up in rainbow colours, as well as the colours of the US flag, as people held a memorial to honour those killed and injured in Orlando.

In Berlin, more than 100 people gathered outside the US embassy to light candles, lay flowers and wave rainbow flags.

The deadliest mass shooting in recent US history ended when police shot Mateen dead. The attack also left 53 people injured, five of them in a serious condition.

On Monday, President Obama said the inquiry was being treated as a terrorist investigation.

However, he said there was no clear evidence that Omar Mateen was directed by IS.

FBI Director James Comey said there were “strong indications of radicalisation and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organisations”.

“We’re highly confident this killer was radicalised at least in some part through the internet,” he said.

The two presumptive candidates running for US president spoke about what they would do to stop similar attacks.

Republican Donald Trump said changes were needed to the US immigration system which he blamed for allowing Omar Mateen’s family to come to the US from Afghanistan.

Democrat Hillary Clinton called for action to stop militants getting hold of assault rifles, saying weapons of war had no place on America’s streets.

What happened on the night?

Mateen began shooting inside the club around 02:00 (06:00 GMT) on Sunday, when the club was holding a Latin night and was packed with revellers.

An off-duty police officer working at the club fought Mateen in a gun battle before police reinforcements arrived.

Source: BBC

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