In what can be said to be the most deadly attack in the United States since the 9/11 terror strike, at least 50 people were killed and 53 others wounded when a gunman opened fire at a crowded gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando earlier today.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is investigating the matter, said they are yet to determine if the crime was a terrorist attack or a hate-crime. "We are conducting a general investigation (right now). We will determine officially whether it's a hate crime or a terrorism incident or even violent crime once we have all the facts in place. We are at a very early stage, we cannot give out things that are not 100 percent accurate," said an FBI official.
The FBI official said they do not want to 'jeopardise the investigation' by sharing information about which they are not sure. "The subject has not been positively identified, so there is not much we can share at this time. Bear in mind that we do not want to jeopardise the investigation. We are confident that there are no threats to the immediate area," he added.
According to reports, the assailant was armed with an assault rifle and a handgun. The gunfire, which began inside the club, continued outside when an officer working at the Pulse attempted to confront him. The gunman then went back into the club, resumed shooting and took hostages.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Police dubbed the incident as 'terrible' and said their priority is to identify the victims and inform their families. "There was one officer injured. He was hit on his head by the suspect, even though he was wearing a helmet, he got injured...We are in the early stages of investigation. We still do not know how he got inside the club. Preliminary info says he was in there and shots were fired," said Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
"(The incident) is absolutely terrible. 50 people being shot is one of the worst tragedies we have seen. Our priority right now is to identify the victims and notify the families. It's a tragedy, we need to be continue to be vigilant. Everyone should be vigilant any inform us about any suspicious activities around," he added.
The police have also asked the Orlando Mayor and the Governor to declare a state of emergency in the region. "We have cleared the building. And it is with great sadness we are informing that it is not 20, but 50 causalities. In addition to the shooter, there are
another 53, who have been hospitalised. Because of the scale of the incident I have asked the Governor to declare a state of emergency, we are declaring a state of emergency for the city of Orlando," another official said. Reports state that the gunman died in the shootout and an officer was also injured. The gunman did not belong from the Orlando area and was organized and well-prepared. The death-toll is expected to rise.