ORLANDO: An estimated 50 people were killed at a gay nightclub after a heavily armed gunman seized hostages early Sunday, prompting a police SWAT team to storm the venue, officials said.
“Unfortunately there are people who died from gunshot wounds, maybe around 20, inside the night club,” FBI special agent Ron Harper told a media briefing.
He said around 42 injured were taken to three area hospitals.
“This did turn into a hostage situation,” Orlando police chief John Mina said. “At approximately 0500 hours (0900 GMT) this morning, the decision was made to rescue hostages that were in there.”
It was unclear whether all the victims were killed by the gunman or if some died in the ensuing shootout with police.
Suspect named as Omar Mateen
The gunman has been identified as an citizen of Afghan descent, US television networks reported on Sunday.
Quoting law enforcement sources, CBS News named the shooter as Omar Mateen, who was born to Afghan parents in 1986 and lives in Port St Lucie, Florida.
The network reported that Mateen — who died in a shootout with police after the hostage siege — has no apparent criminal history and that authorities are investigating whether he had ties to Islamic extremism.
Police have yet to officially identify the gunman.