Early reports on the background of the gunman suspected to have killed at least 50 people in a Florida nightclub paint a picture of a violent young man.
Relatives interviewed by US media said Omar Mateen, 29, who worked as a security officer, was not overly religious but had anti-gay views and assaulted his ex-wife.
Mateen’s father, who is of Afghan descent, too said he believed his son was motivated by hatred of gays, and not by his Muslim religion. “This had nothing to do with religion,” Mir Seddique told NBC News. He said Omar had recently lashed out in his presence after witnessing a gay couple embracing in downtown Miami, and suggested the incident may have triggered the atrocity.
“He saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” Seddique told the network.
“We are saying we are apologising for the whole incident.
We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country,” he added.
Afghan sources said Mateen’s father Mir Seddique runs an organisation called Durand Jirga. His Facebook page, as well as Durand Jirga’s, carry pictures of a ‘United Afghanistan’ map, including parts of Pakistan.
Seddique also hosts a show on an Afghan TV channel based in Los Angeles, called Payam-e-afghanistan. As per a YouTube video, Seddique had announced his candidacy for the 2014 Afghan presidential election.
In an interview, the former wife of Mateen, who left him in 2011 reportedly fearing for her life, said he was violently abusive. “He was not a stable person,” she told The Washington Post, which did not identify her saying she fears for her safety. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that,” she told the Post.
She also described Mateen as a “private person” but not especially expressive about his Muslim faith.
According to the wife’s account, they had met in New York, and in March 2009, moved in together in Fort Pierce, Florida. Mateen continued to live here, about two hours drive from Orlando.
The woman’s parents later rescued her from the relationship and the pair were divorced, according to a court document seen by AFP.
According to some reports, Mateen owned a small caliber handgun and worked as a guard at a secure facility for juvenile delinquents.
Other media reports said Mateen was on the radar of US law enforcement agencies in the past. “He (Mateen) is a known quantity. He’s been on the radar before,” a law enforcement source was quoted as saying by The Daily Beast.
According to the media report, Mateen became a person of interest in 2013 and again in 2014.
At some point, the FBI also opened an investigation into Mateen but subsequently closed the case when it produced nothing that appeared to warrant further investigation, the source said.