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Orlando shooter was a homophobic killer, deliberately using the 'Isis' name

“We need to rally around our LGBTI brothers and sisters… and to defy the absolute evil [of] groups like Islamic State,” writes security expert Tom Clonan.

Tom Clonan Security specialist and columnist, TheJournal.ie

THE PULSE NIGHTCLUB shooting was a pre-meditated and deliberate attack on the LGBTI community.

New Yorker Omar Mateen (29) is reported to have claimed allegiance to Islamic State and to have shouted Islamist slogans during his killing spree at the Orlando nightclub.

However, as more details emerge about the tragic mass murder, it would appear that Mateen was simply a homophobic killer who sought to justify his cowardly and homicidal tendencies with the twisted rhetoric of Islamic State.

In all likelihood, Mateen was a maladjusted ‘lone wolf’ killer who name-checked ISIS in order to give his despicable hate crime the status of an ideologically motivated terrorist attack.

For their part, Islamic State have been keen to exploit the heartache and fear brought about by Mateen’s actions. Whilst not directly claiming responsibility for the attack – as they have done in previous killings such as the Paris attacks and Charlie Hebdo shootings – ISIS have claimed that Mateen was one of their ‘fighters’.

Islamic State Persecuting Gays Daniel Halaby, a gay Syrian living in southern Turkey, shows a photo from his laptop of Islamic State group militants throwing a man off a roof for allegedly violating the extremists' ban on homosexuality. Source: Hussein Malla

Islamic State have targeted the LGBTI community themselves in the areas that they occupy. ISIS have posted appalling videos on YouTube of gay men being hurled to their deaths from the rooftops of tall buildings in cities such as Raqqa and Mosul in Syria and Iraq.

Other gay men, women, boys and girls have been stoned, beaten to death or decapitated for their homosexuality.

An attack on freedom and love

For ISIS, the LGBTI community are emblematic of those western values of tolerance, acceptance and liberty that they so bitterly despise. An attack on the LGBTI community is an attack at the very heart of the norms and values that underpin western liberal societies and democracies. Such an attack is an attack on freedom, love and the value and sanctity of all human life.

Therefore, Islamic State have been happy to delight in Sunday’s killings. In a cynical, exploitative and opportunistic manner, they have sought to harness the hurt and pain of the murders in order to sow the seeds of fear, hatred and terror within US society.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump has responded eagerly to the bile and propaganda generated by Islamic State. Over the last 24 hours, his Twitter account has manipulated the shooting for political gain and to give expression to xenophobic ideations around ‘migrants’ and other minority groups.

Mass shootings

Nightclub Shooting Las Vegas Vigil Source: John Locher

President Obama on the other hand, has directly linked the Orlando tragedy to an emerging and peculiarly American phenomenon – the mass shooting. The USA has the highest proportion of mass shootings anywhere in the world.

One third of all mass shootings worldwide take place in the US. According to Harvard University’s School of Public Health, the number of such shootings in the United States has trebled since 2011.

According to research conducted by Harvard and North Eastern University, a mass shooting now takes place in the United States every 64 days. In this emerging cycle of gun violence, there is a heightened risk factor for copycat killings within two weeks of any major event. Therefore, for the next fortnight at least – America will hold its breath for further shootings in any of its public spaces, from schools to workplaces to bars, nightclubs and places of worship.

The weapon used by Mateen to kill so many young people in the Pulse Nightclub was an AR 15 assault rifle. This was the same type of weapon that was used to execute 28 teachers and small children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. The AR 15 is an all-American product and is manufactured by the big household names in the US gun lobby such as Smith and Wesson, Colt and Bushmaster.

The AR 15 is a NATO standard assault rifle designed for use on the conventional battlefield. In the hands of an amateur or a child, it has an effective killing range of about 350 metres. The high velocity rounds it fires will easily pass through cavity blocks, timber and the interior partitions of all buildings.

There is no cover from such fire during the type of marauding attack mounted by Mateen.

No sanctuary or protection

Nightclub Shooting Orlando Source: Phelan M. Ebenhack

For those who fled to bathrooms and toilet areas, there would have been no sanctuary or protection from the lethal fire poured into those areas and cubicles by the shooter. In fact, many of those struck by bullets passing through walls and doors will have more complicated and catastrophic injuries caused by tumbling or ricocheting rounds.

Fired point blank in a crowded nightclub, the weapons used by Mateen would cause massive soft tissue injury, heavy arterial bleeding and the destruction of organs in bracketing or grouped fire.

Recordings of the attack – captured on mobile phones – reveal a pattern of fire that was similar to that used by the Bataclan Theatre killers in November.

It is deliberate, rapid fire. It is not chaotic, automatic fire. Mateen, like the Bataclan shooters, intended to kill as many people as possible in the short window of time afforded by police response times. 89 were slaughtered in the Bataclan Theatre. The next few days will tell how many innocent young lives have been lost to Mateen’s hatred and homophobia.

Atlanta Nightclub Shooting Florida Source: David Goldman

The Bataclan killers used Kalashnikov assault rifles smuggled illegally into France for their assaults. Mateen however, used a legally held assault rifle that he was able to purchase over the counter in the United States. President Obama’s initial reaction to the Orlando killings is instinctively correct.

His instinct is to question the logic of the US right to bear arms. In particular, the availability of high velocity assault weapons that have no sporting, hunting or personal protection rationale or use.

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, we need to rally around our LGBTI brothers and sisters and to defy the absolute evil and perversion of hate crime and the hate speech that groups like Islamic State and other, newly emerging and highly toxic political movements foster. We also need to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters who are the principal targets of so-called Islamic State’s campaign of violence and propaganda.

Dr Tom Clonan is a former Captain in the Irish armed forces. He is a security analyst and academic, lecturing in the School of Media in DIT. He is also an Independent candidate for Senate-TCD Panel. You can follow him on Twitter here.   

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About the author:

Tom Clonan  / Security specialist and columnist, TheJournal.ie

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