ISIS says Orlando nightclub shooter was ISIS 'fighter'

Mourners near Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the murder of 50 people and wounding of 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. "The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter," ISIS's Amaq news agency said Sunday. U.S. officials caution that there's no evidence the apparent shooter, U.S.-born Omar Mateen, had any direct ties to ISIS or was in contact with the Islamist terrorist group, though he pledged allegiance to ISIS to a 911 operator about the time he began his rampage. ISIS encourages "lone wolf" attacks in the West, and an ISIS spokesman recently encouraged such attacks before the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

"Was the killer truly acting under orders from the Islamic State, or just seeking publicity and the group's approval for a personal act of hate?" asks Rukmini Callimachi at The New York Times. "For the terror planners of the Islamic State, the difference is mostly irrelevant. Influencing distant attackers to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and then carry out mass murder has become a core part of the group's propaganda over the past two years. It is a purposeful blurring of the line between operations that are planned and carried out by the terror group's core fighters and those carried out by its sympathizers."

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