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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Coverage of The Mass Shooting in a Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. AIred 3-4p ET
Aired June 12, 2016 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Any moment we're going to be getting a news conference coming in from officials in Orlando, Florida. As of now 50 people confirmed dead. At least 53 are injured. Those numbers will almost certainly change after a gunman opened fire at the pulse nightclub in Orlando at approximately 2:00 a.m. eastern.
According to a U.S. official, the gunman called 9-1-1, 20 minutes into the attack to pledge his allegiance to ISIS. On that call the gunman also made a reference to the Boston marathon bombers. He has been identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen. He is 29 years old. He was born in New York. His parents are originally from Afghanistan.
We just received a statement in from the current president of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani saying that targeting civilians is not justifiable under any circumstances whatsoever. President Ghani, according to the statement, offers his condolences and sympathies to the President Barack Obama, people of the United States, and the bereaved victims.
President Obama addressing the nation just a little while ago saying an attack on any American is an attack on all Americans.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder, horrific massacre, of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando who have endured a terrible attack on their city. Although it's still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people.
I just finished a meeting with the FBI director Comey and my homeland and national security advisors. The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation in partnership with local law enforcement. I directed that the full resources of the federal government will made available for this investigation. We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We have reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.
The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism, and I have directed we must spare no effort to find out what if any inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear that is that he was a person filled with hatred. On the coming days, we will uncover why and how this happen and we will go wherever the facts lead us. This morning I spoke with my good friend, the Orlando mayor, Buddy Dyer. And I conveyed to him the deepest condolences of the American people.
This could have been any one of our communities. So I told the Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need, they are going to get it. As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come.
We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed to harm's way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being even worse. It's the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us and we can never thank them enough.
This is an especially heart breaking day for all of our friends and our fellow Americans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub. It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.
So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans. Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder --
BLITZER: We're going to break away from that tape. The press conference in Orlando, local authorities, police authorities are about to update us on their investigation.
[15:05:10] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI, after this briefing we will only have briefings as significant events occur for the rest of day. We will provide tomorrow additional updates.
MAYOR BUDDY DYER, ORLANDO: This is probably the most difficult day in the history of Orlando. And I want to thank all of our law enforcement professionals, our health professionals, victims advocates, counselors who have come to the aid of our community.
While it is difficult for all of us, it is the most difficult for those families that are still waiting for information on their loved ones. And as difficult as that is, I ask for patience and compassion and love. Pulse remains an active crime scene and law enforcement is working the scene as efficiently and as diligently as they possibly can while also being respectful of the remains of the deceased. We are setting up additional means of communication. We have the hot
line which is 407-246-4357 that we mentioned at the last press conference. And anybody that has a loved one that they believe could be one of the victims should contact that hot line and give their information so we have contact information when we are able to identify your loved one.
Aspire help has offered counseling services and can be reached through the zebra coalition and LGBT center on Mills is also open with brief counselors. We are setting up a website, which is cityofOrlando.net/victims which will be updated with the names of the decease after the next of kin have been notified.
You heard the president and the governor is here. We have all the resources of the federal government, the state government, and our local government partners, all that they have to offer. Our community will be grieving today, the next few days, the next few weeks, and the next few months. We need to support each other. We need to love each other. And we will not be defined by a hateful shooter. We will be defined how we support and love each other -- Governor Scott.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R). FLORIDA: Thank you, Mayor Dyer.
Clearly this is an act of terrorism. You can't imagine this happening in any community. I can't imagine happening in your state as the governor of the state. I can't imagine happening in your country.
I want to first -- my heart goes out to every family member that's been impacted. I know law enforcement is doing everything they can to notify next of kin. Get as much information out as they can. And they are working diligently together, state, local and federal.
I want to -- I want to thank all of our law enforcement for everything they do. They have done in this case, and each and every day. I have asked for all the citizens of the United States to have a moment of silence at 6:00 p.m. eastern time tonight to mourn the loss of life and still -- and also, pray for those that are still fighting for their life and pray for all the loved ones.
Again, I want to thank the law enforcement, especially those that walked into that shooting scene and risked their life to save so many people. This state is going to be defined as a state of generosity, a state of love. We are a resilient state. We love people in our state, and we are going to continue to do that.
Anybody that is thinking about doing something like this in our state, our justice is swift. Our penalties are severe. We have a great law enforcement team and we are going to do the right thing. We declared a state of emergency earlier today for Orange County. And the state, I know (INAUDIBLE) service as anybody needs.
I would like to turn it over to the attorney general Pam Bondi now.
PAM BONDI, ORLANDO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today is a tragic day. And we are making it clear anyone who attacks our LGBT community or anyone who attack anyone in our state will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law. Today my office has been working. We have been bringing in victims' advocates from throughout the state of Florida here to Orlando. So if you are missing a family member or loved one, we will be here to help you. You are hearing on a horrible, tragic day, the word love. That's what we need to continue to do. We need to look out for each other. We need to take care of each other. And we will be available as a community, as a state, and we have all received calls from around the country of people offering their support in this horrible, horrible time.
Our mayor has done an incredible job. The FBI has taken the lead on this investigation, and they are remarkable. Back in the command center, watching federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutors all work together, second to none in our state, and we should be very proud of the law enforcement, the men and women in uniform who are all working together as a team. Thank you very much. And now the FBI -- sorry, our police chief.
[15:10:44] CHIEF JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE: Good afternoon. Just to clarify. We had 11 Orlando police officers that exchanged gunfire with the suspect and killed him. They have all been relieved of duty as is our standard of practice. Florida department law enforcement will investigate the officer involved shooting portion of that and we will release their names over the next couple days.
We want the citizens and residents and visitors of Orlando to know that we are committed to your safety. Our officers risked their lives for the people and patrons at pulse, and we are committed to do so again. So at this time we're going to continue with the investigation, assist the FBI. Our focus is on helping with the identification and next of kin. We're setting up a system for that as well.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of the outpouring of support not only from local law enforcement. You know, we have had multiple sheriffs from different counties respond, different police chiefs. Everyone in central Florida has reached out to us. But I also want to thank the businesses in this area. They have all stepped forward to assist law enforcement with food, with water, so we really do appreciate that. Thank you.
SHERIFF JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: I'm going to provide a brief update as well. This has certainly being a trying today. As you can see, as the day has grown, the level of support in our community has grown as well. And so, I sincerely appreciate the broad support that we are receiving.
We still have a lot of work to do yet in this investigation. At just after noon today there was a national phone teleconference that was spearheaded by the department of homeland security in which law enforcement from across the entire country came together to talk about what we must do to ensure the safety of our homeland, because what has happened here was not purely an attack on the residents of residents of Orange County or Orlando here. But this was, indeed, an attack on our nation. And so, we appreciate the support that is coming from across the country in this effort. In terms of the Orange County sheriff's office, we had three deputy
sheriffs who were actively engaged in the rescue efforts that also fired their weapons. They too have been relieved of the law enforcement authority pending an investigation. What we typically do here in Orlando is call upon the Florida department of law enforcement to do an independent investigation of any law enforcement officer- involved shootings, and that has been done in this case, and so they will be doing their investigation concurrently with that of the FBI. Thank you again.
RICHARD HOPPER, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN-CHARGE: Thank you, sheriff. Just to reiterate. The FBI has taken the lead in this information, but I want to thank every agency standing behind me and those you may or may not see currently that are working with shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand to get to the bottom of this senseless act of violence.
Here are some talking points to make sure I address the questions that you posed earlier. So bear with me as I go through them.
We are gathering a lot of information right now. So we want to share as much as we possibly can. The individual believed to be responsible for the terror attack at the Orlando club polls early Sunday morning has been identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, age 29, an American citizen born in New York. He died in an exchange of gunfire with police officers early this morning.
The FBI first became aware of Mateen in 2013 when he made inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible terrorist ties. The FBI thoroughly investigated the matter including interviews of witnesses, physical surveillance and record chats. In the course of the investigation, Mateen was interviewed twice. Ultimately we were unable to verify the substance of his comments and the investigation was closed.
In 2014 Mateen, again, came to the attention of the FBI because of possible ties to (INAUDIBLE), an American decide bomber. The FBI conducted an investigation including an interview with Mateen. We determined the contact was minimal and did not constitute a substantive relationship or a threat at that time.
It has been reported that Mateen made calls to 911 this morning in which he stated his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State. We are looking into any and all connections both domestic and international. We are going to be as transparent as possible. But we also want to be as accurate as possible as I stated earlier today. Given the ongoing nature of the investigation, we will continue to provide updates when information becomes available. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that mean the 9-1-1 report is inaccurate at this point?
HOPPER: There were 9-1-1 calls in which there was conversation between the subject and law enforcement representatives or 9-1-1 dispatchers. That has become federal evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there a declaration of allegiance to anyone (INAUDIBLE)?
HOPPER: It is any understanding, I have not personally listened to him. But it was general to the Islamic state.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hospital is under heavy guard right now. Can you confirm that? Could there be a possible second suspect here?
HOPPER: I'm sorry, I missed it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hearing that there is something in the hospital under full guard by law enforcement. Is that true and (INAUDIBLE)?
HOPPER: I can tell you at this point in time we don't have a second suspect that we are actively looking for. We don't know of any credible or singular threats that are facing the Orlando area or nationally. We are providing physical presence for the hospitals and the victim assistance centers to make sure everyone remains safe and secure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us an overview looks like? Were there victims found on the second floor (INAUDIBLE)?
HOPPER: All I can tell you is that crime scene is still being processed, and I can't comment on anything going on with the --.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was interviewed twice by the FBI and then again in 2013 and again in 2014 with connection to a known terrorist, the suicide bomber. How in the world did this guy get a statewide gun permit?
HOPPER: As I mentioned earlier, those interviews turned out to be inconclusive, so there was nothing to keep the investigation going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you have the echoes of terror, and he got a gun permit nevertheless?
HOPPER: Again, investigation was closed, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have there been more victims that have passed since our last update?
HOPPER: Do we have someone from the medical -- I am not personally aware of any other victims that had passed since the lase press conference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have family members been notified of the bodies that are inside? Have you been able to identify them all?
HOPPER: So we are trying to be as respectful as possible of the deceased people that still remain inside the facility. As we identify people, we are making notifications, and then the police department and I believe the city are preparing a website to list those that have been made contact with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any idea how many have been contacted at this point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the hospital perspective, at least six I know of, next of kin have been notified.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there danger inside of this club still for your agents and the FBI and the people investigating this crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The scene is clear. Like special agent Hopper said, there's a lot of victims inside. Trying to be respectful of that as well. And so, it is just going to take time. And we have ask the people have patience.
HOPPER: The subject that I mentioned earlier was not under current investigation at the time of this incident and was not under surveillance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have interviewed his family, I assume. Is there anything you can tell us about the interviews?
HOPPER: All that I can tell you is that multiple interviews are being conducted as we speak. I have no details as to how far that --.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about his home? You were at his home. Can you tell us what you're doing at the home?
HOPPER: Interviews and investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any word on where he got the weapons from (INAUDIBLE)?
HOPPER: Yes. So our partners from ATF are here to speak to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, good day. I'm the assistant special agent in charge of ATF. And first, I just like to start by saying that our condolences goes off to the families of those who have been impacted.
ATF has traced those firearms. We know that (INAUDIBLE) just at least two firearms. He is not a (INAUDIBLE) person. So he can legally walk into a gun dealer and acquire and purchase firearms. He did so. And he did so within the last week or so. And thus far, we are following up on that so I'm not going to get into the detail as to the specific location of the purchase. But he did purchase two to firearms, a handgun and a long gun within the last two days.
[15:20:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the suspect wearing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's all the information we can release at this time. We'll provide you more updates as they become available.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any idea how long next of kin notification is going to take?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're doing it as quickly as possible.
BLITZER: All right. So we just learned some more about this suspect, 29-year-old Omar Saddiqui Mateen, including the interviews he actually had with the FBI in connection with investigations. Apparently he had made some sympathetic comments about ISIS that generated the initial interviews. He was interviewed but they found no conclusive evidence. They said it was inconclusive as to any specific solidarity or sympathy support involved with ISIS. They did tell us, though, that on this 9-1-1 call that he made into this terror operation he did express his support for quote "the leader of the Islamic state."
Peter Bergen, he also mentioned specifically a case of (INAUDIBLE) back in 2014, an American who went to Syria for ISIS.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is fascinating that the FBI would be investigating Mateen for his connections to Abu Sala (ph). (INAUDIBLE) who was recruited by Al-Qaeda in Syria, the local group there which known as al-Nustra front. He traveled from Florida to Syria, got training then came back to Florida unbeknownst to the FBI until later. Met with a number of people and then went back to Syria again to conduct a suicidal operation for Al-Qaeda. So the fact that this guy, Mateen, seemed to have been, you know, in the social circle of (INAUDIBLE) who is also a Floridian who was recruited by Al- Qaeda, you know, I think it's, you know, quite significant.
BLITZER: Tell us why you think it's significant. The FBI concluded it was inconclusive.
BERGEN: Well, this is the only example, of an American citizen recruited by Al-Qaeda going to Syria conduct suicide operation. And this guy was a real deal. So the fact that the FBI was looking into who was in this guy's social circle. Now, they may have concluded that Mateen, the perpetrator of Orlando attack was merely an acquaintance. But the fact is they were in Florida together. They were obviously -- had some kind of connection and (INAUDIBLE) is an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber, the press American who conduct suicide in Syria.
BLITZER: Art Roderick, you used to work for the U.S. marshal's office. It sounds very, very awful that someone like this was working were a security firm that had federal contracts for almost nine years, was investigated several times by the FBI in connection with allegations to the sympathetic to ISIS, expressing support for Islamic - Islamist terrorism if you will. And then within the last week or two goes out and buys guns that wind up killing 50 people and injuring another 50 plus.
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think the normal person out there would think that all these dots would be connected. Unfortunately, that's not the case. These systems still don't talk to one another very well, especially the no fly list as compared to an individual purchasing a handgun. And I know there is a lot of political issues involve in that. But I think right now, the bureau is probably relooking at how they conduct these interviews, what the targets are, who the individuals are associating with, and it is very disturbing that this individual not only had associations that were being investigated but also worked for a company that had federal contracts. Would have been at airports and federal buildings, and it was also allowed to purchase firearms to commit this horrible crime.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, you heard with the Florida senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, said that there are these reports that ISIS is now claiming responsibility. I know you're checking into that. We haven't confirmed that. What are you hearing?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, what we can say is there is an ISIS affiliated news agency called the AMAK (ph) news agency that on its official telegram channel put out a statement saying that a source had told them that the person who carried out this attack overnight in Florida was an ISIS fighter. This is not an official ISIS claim. But this is a claim from a news agency very closely affiliated with the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. There were a number of things which were, perhaps, a little bit strange about the statement according to our own CNN translators. They used the Arabic words for gay rather than a much abusive (INAUDIBLE) that they have used in the past.
But generally, the AMAK (ph) news agency has put out statements which are less abusive in term than ISIS itself. So this was put out according to flash point partners, organization tracking these things on the official telegram channel, a social media channel of AMAK news agency. So this is not as official kind of responsibility by ISIS. It is not ISIS thing that they directed this. But the news agency saying they have a source saying this man was an ISIS fighter, Wolf.
BLITZER: Kimberly Dozier, you are checking in to this. You are working your sources in all of this. It is pretty alarming obviously. This is the worst mass shooting in American history. What are you hearing?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, still no word, as Paul said, on whether this was ISIS directed. But it does fit right into ISIS' play book in places like Iraq and Syria. When they start losing on the battle field, they attack in civilian areas. We have seen a rise in car bombings in Baghdad and in Damascus. And what we see on the battlefield is ISIS is under pressure on several fronts. The town of Fallujah within Iraq is being encroached upon by Iraqi forces. They may be about to lose (INAUDIBLE). That's a town near the Turkish border inside Syria. If they lose that that is being encircled right now by U.S. backed rebel forces, they would lose their ability to traffic people and supplies over the Turkish border.
Then in Raqqa, the captive capital, they have got west factor approaching on one sides and rushing back Syrian forces approaching one another and just one more place they are losing in Libya, U.N. backed Libyan forces there who are also getting help from U.S. special operations forces are approaching Syrians. And it looks like the ISIS fighters, thousands inside that city might soon flee.
So what you've seen in the past is whenever they're under siege, they want to distract their followers and make it look like they are powerful by attacking somewhere else. Unfortunately, U.S. official thought it would be some attempt on the soccer tournaments that is going on in France. Instead it was in our borders.
BLITZER: I want to bring back Art Roderick.
Art, this investigation, I assume they are spending an enormous amount of time even as we speak right now going through his social media, going through his computers and going through all of his records, trying to find out, a, if anyone else was involved.
RODERICK: Yes, Wolf. The JTTF probably is the backbone of this type of investigation, and the JTTF is comprised of just about all federal investigative --
BLITZER: That's the Joint Terrorism Traffic Force.
RODERICK: Correct. And there is about 71 of them around the country. And I'm sure they are all scrubbing their books now to find out what connections this individual had. But they have got a lot of resources they their ability. You heard the president mention that all federal resources are available. So you have got the full weight of all federal law enforcement agencies with the bureau in charge coming down on this particular case.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Peter. You know, we have been looking at this statement put out by the AMAK (ph) news agency, this ISIS affiliated, so-called news agency, and we have translated it. CNN has translated it. I'll read it to the viewers.
The armed attack that targeted a gay nightclub in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida that bore more than 100 kill and wounded was carried out by an Islamic state fighter. Our experts who have reviewed the Arabic translation, they point out as Paul Cruickshank just did the language is inconsistent with previous ISIS announcements, in particular, the Arabic word for gay was used rather than as opposed to their usual approach that ISIS uses when they talk about the gay community. There was no claim the attack was directed, just an after the fact claim that the gunman was an ISIS fighter. You looked at this carefully, Peter. You studied this over the years. What's your analysis?
BERGEN: I think it was very unsurprising that this looks like an after the fact claiming of this attack. There is no evidence that this guy was training by ISIS. There is no evidence yet that he was directed perhaps encrypted in communications to do anything. Although that maybe will emerge but the fact is that this seems to be an after the fact embracing to this attack. This is something that ISIS has been trying to do, inspiring people around the west to carry out attacks. They don't need formal training. And this is the part we've seen in this country, Wolf, where you know, people are not getting training by ISIS and Syria as we saw in Paris or in Brussels where people were, you know, these were ISIS directed, owned, financed operations. We're seeing something different here.
BLITZER: And Paul Cruickshank, I'm going to show our viewers another picture that we just received of this terrorist, Omar Siddiqi Mateen. There he is over there. Another picture of this terrorist who killed 50 people at this gay bar, this nightclub, injured at least another 50 people. But the FBI agent in-charge that we just heard from referred to that
case and we heard Peter Bergen discussed (INAUDIBLE), this other American who from Florida, who went to Syria, became a suicide bomber. The FBI investigated Mr. Mateen as a result of his so-called minimal contact with Abu Salah, but they didn't think it was inconclusive, it was inconclusive in their words. It sounds pretty stark to me, though.
[15:30:40] CRUICKSHANK: Well, there will certainly be questions asked as Peter Bergen are leading to about this investigation. (INAUDIBLE) became the first American suicide bomber in Syria for Al-Qaeda, the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra in May 2014, blowing himself up in Syria. As Peter was talking about, he actually came back to Florida for a period of time, even after he had spent some time in Syria, both men from Florida.
But at the same time it's got to be stressed that the FBI conducting an awful lot of terrorism investigations right now. They have opened a thousand cases into suspected radical extremists in the United States. Eight hundred of those cases there's some kind of link to ISIS in terms of sympathy. So they are stretched quite thin right now, the FBI, in terms of everything that they have to look out for.
One extra point here is that over the last seven, eight has been a real drop in the number of Americans who have been attempting to try to travel to Syria and Iraq. Up until August 2015, according to FBI director, six to ten Americans were trying to go every month. That's now fallen to about one.
But the worry has been that frustrated in their attempts to travel to Syria and Iraq that they would launch attacks back home. And that's exactly what (INAUDIBLE), the ISIS spokesman to senior leader called for on May 21st, just a few days ago, for attacks during Ramadan and for Americans to stay home and launch terrorist attacks against civilians.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Victor Blackwell is on the scene for us in Orlando.
Victor, you're helping us better appreciate what's going on. I know you have a special guest who can shed some light. Update our viewers.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do, Wolf. I have with me Rasha Mubarak with the council on American Islamic Relations Care.
Rasha, I first want to come to you with your reaction to what happened here overnight, 50 people killed. At least 53 people injured.
RASHA MUBARAK, ORLANDO REGIONAL COORDINATOR, CAIR FLORIDA: I actually woke up to pray this morning, and opened up my Facebook account and saw the breaking news locally and my art dropped. I have so many friends and colleagues from the LGBT community, and my prayers are with them. I know a lot of our friends were talking, is everyone OK? I have been awake since then. And you know, we are heartbroken. We are disgusted. This is horrifying. And no community should have to fear who they are, especially when they're going out for entertainment, and they're in Orlando, the city of beautiful. They disturbed the peace here in Orlando. Our community was terrorized as a Floridian. I'm horrified.
BLACKWELL: And we know that CAIR has have condemned the violence, condemn this attack. There will be some who will turn their eye not to this specific suspect but to the entire Muslim community. And we know that after incidents like this that CAIR has really strong concerns about the safety and well-being of Muslims across the country.
MUBARAK: We definitely have concerns, but I think something as the gravity, the magnitude of this right now, we are just concerned about the victims and their families and the Muslims here in Florida. And central Floridians are just mobilizing blood banks who are just sending prayers.
We are worried about the backlash, but that's at the back of our minds right now. We are just mourning here to fear as a Floridian for the families and our friends and, you know, our neighbors. There is a 500 percent increase in Islamaphobia with hate crimes and backlash. So there is a fear. And you know, we are working with law enforcement, OPD, Orange County sheriff department, FBI to make sure that, you know, we are -- we do trust them and they have done a great job with everything so far. But right now we're worried about our victims.
BLACKWELL: You're worried about the victims. You are in communications with law enforcement. Have you had any communication with the shooter's family and for fears?
MUBARAK: No. No communication.
BLACKWELL: Will you be efforting that?
MUBARAK: I'm not entirely sure of what CAIR Florida. Right now we are just focusing on, you know, what's going on right now on the grounds as far as the victims here in central Florida and being there for the community.
BLACKWELL: Our intelligence analyst back in Washington is joining us from around the country have talked about the self-radicalization. There's no evidence yet that this was an ISIS-directed attack, but ISIS-inspired with the reporting that he could dialed 9-1-1 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS. And there will be some whom question the Muslim community's role in stopping, preventing this radicalization and what role imams and Muslim leaders across the country should play in that and CAIR's position on that is what?
[15:35:31] MUBARAK: I mean, the Muslim community has been the leading group of people that have been able to detect radicalism through radicalization. The Muslim community is doing the leg work. But we need to do it as a team, as a country. You know, when the Planned Parenthood shooting happens, it's the same thing as any kind of accountability for the priests, but just as the community together and law enforcement. So we have to work together. It's not a responsibility of just one group. It's the responsibility of the country, as America.
BLACKWELL: All right. Rasha Mubarak with the Council on American- Islamic Relations, thank you so much for being with us.
MUBARAK: And I just want to send my condolences to the families and, you know, we are here for them, and our heart goes out to them.
BLACKWELL: As do we all.
Wolf, we are hearing from community leaders here in the Muslim community. City leaders as well coming here, as this is now the scene of a dubious distinction, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
We spoke with the city councilwoman Patty Sheehan just about an hour ago who said that, you know, to love this community, but it hurts now to be at the top of the tragic, tragic list.
So I'm going to send it back to you in Washington.
BLITZER: It certainly does. And I assume we will be getting, obviously, a lot more information coming in in the coming hours about this individual, Omar Saddiqui Mateen. Presumably where he prayed, where he attended, where he went out, his friends. And as you get more of that information, Victor, of course, you'll share it with our viewers.
Victor Blackwell on the scene for us in Orlando.
Let's take another quick break. Our special coverage will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter and my two nieces, please come and get us. Please come and get us now. They're shooting. They are shooting. I got a phone call from my daughter saying she was hit and she was bleeding in her arm and she is going to pass out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:40:58] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news. President Obama calling this shooting in Orlando, Florida, an act of terror and an act of hate. That sentiment, obviously, being echoed by officials in Florida as well.
CNN has learned the suspect, Omar Saddiqui Mateen called 9-1-1, claimed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, ISIS. Mateen was born in New York. His parents are originally from Afghanistan. We have unique special perspective on that part of this unfortunate story.
Hamid Karzai is the former president of Afghanistan who is visiting Washington. He has come in to discuss this.
This must be especially painful for you, Mr. President that the son of Afghanis implicated in this mass shooting, the worst mass shooting in American history?
HAMID KARZAI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: A great tragedy. We commensurate with the people of the United States, with the families who lost their love ones, with the wounded. It's a crime that we condemn in the strongest possible terms because we in Afghanistan suffer from it daily and for a long time. So we are with the American people on this.
BLITZER: Do you know anything about the parents? These are Afghanis who came to the United States in the 1980s? He was born in New York 29 years ago.
KARZAI: No. We don't know. What we just learned this morning that he was born to Afghan parents in the United States and raised here.
BLITZER: What would motivate, from your perspective as a Muslim, what would motivate someone like this to go out and pledge allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic state?
KARZAI: It's not necessarily a Muslim, non-Muslim question. If you were born in Afghanistan, you raised in war, then it would have been a different matter. But he was born in the U.S., and raised in the U.S., educated here. So if there's influence on him by ISIS, we should look at it from the U.S. perspective and the social environment here, whatever it is. Ours or his own inclinations or sickness, we condemn it.
BLITZER: You condemn it in the strongest possible terms?
KARZAI: Very strong.
BLITZER: Would there be close coordination between the Afghan government and the U.S. government to try to learn about the family, maybe the involvement of others potentially in this terror incident. Right now, the FBI says they have one suspect.
KARZAI: There should be. Very strong coordination and cooperation.
BLITZER: How significant is ISIS in Afghanistan now?
KARZAI: It is a threat. We spoke about this for a long time. It is a threat since it emerged about a year and a half, two years ago, it's been a threat. It has killed hundreds of people in eastern Afghanistan, and in northern Afghanistan. A threat that people spoke about every day that people came to visit me every day after the sufferings that ISIS cost to them.
There were stories that they tore babies apart and killed people and burned houses, pushed people out of their homes in hundreds. There are people now in refugee in eastern Afghanistan in (INAUDIBLE) city who are forced out by ISIS. So it is a force that kills and maims and hurt and pushes people away from their homes. BLITZER: President Obama said this was not just an act of terror, it
was also an act of hate. And he referred to the fact this was a gay club, a gay bar that was attacked. This individual, according to our sources, had expressed a hatred of gays. Explain the perspective of an Islamist radical and extremist, why the hatred of the gay community is so strong?
KARZAI: Well, we don't know what it was. If he has gone to a gay club and killed people and out of hatred, it's still condemnable. Whatever his beliefs were, whether his thoughts were, had no right to kill innocent people with whom he had nothing to do, and Islam does not allow it. Killing is banned under any circumstances of this nature of civilians.
[15:45:06] BLITZER: But a tiny, tiny extreme element out there including ISIS, they believe that homosexuals, that gays are violating Islam and must be killed.
KARZAI: That section is speaking for themselves. I am not a cleric. I'm not a religious scholar of Islam. What I can tell you is what this man did, in whatever name he did it, for whatever cause that he had in his mind, he did it whatever his motivations, he was wrong, wrong, and we condemn it. We never accept or in any manner look over the killing of civilians. Just like we condemn it in Afghanistan, we condemn it America and anywhere else.
BLITZER: You have seen all the reports over the years of ISIS and other terror groups taking gays and throwing them off of the top of buildings, cutting off their heads, burning them. Their only sin from the ISIS perspective is these are homosexuals, these are gays.
KARZAI: Well, ISIS does not represent Islam. And, of course, Islam has views on issues of this nature, but the killing of people only reflects a hateful, criminal character. Any killing of any nature that relates to religion or the dictates of religion must come from an authorized court, must come from authorized religious scholars, must come through an institutional brother (ph). Individuals cannot resolve to any killing under any circumstances.
BLITZER: Mr. President, you are the former president of Afghanistan. All of us remember the role you played right after 9/11 when U.S. troops went in. If you could speak and maybe they're watching you right now, the Islamic state, leaders of ISIS, what is your message to them?
KARZAI: My message is to them is that they have killed a lot of innocent people in Afghanistan, in other places, in Syria, in Iraq. Now they are doing it in the name of their organization in America. It's all condemnable, and it's wrong, and they don't represent Islam. They are against Islam.
BLITZER: Is Afghanistan, today, a failed state?
KARZAI: No, it is not.
BLITZER: Because it looks like it's falling apart right now. KARZAI: It is not falling apart.
BLITZER: You still live in Kabul?
KARZAI: Yes, very much. My children are there.
BLITZER: Kabul is basically the only area that's relatively secure. If you go outside of Kabul right now, it's pretty dangerous.
KARZAI: So are other places that are very good. Big cities are all very good in the countries (INAUDIBLE). We have problems but the country is moving forward. The country is hopeful. And you will see that Afghanistan will be a good country. Just stay put with Afghanistan and keep helping it.
BLITZER: Is the problem the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS? Because there are so many threats internally in Afghanistan right now and from the U.S. perspective, this has been the longest American war in history going back to a month after 9-1-1.
KARZAI: Well, you mentioned the Taliban. The Taliban are also fighting ISIS, by the way. The Taliban are deadly against ISIS. Before the Afghan government began to fight the Islamic state, the Taliban began to fight them. And they are against them. The Taliban does not represent Islam or any other belief that we can accept.
Yes, there is conflict in Afghanistan, and you know we have discussed it over the years, the nature of this conflict in Afghanistan. I believe and so do the afghan people, that if we put ourselves together, the United States, Afghanistan, and our other allies in the right way and focus on the right places were extremism is raised, where radicalism is supported where the sanctuaries are, we will have a solution to the issues that we are facing.
BLITZER: But so many years, so many lives lost. The U.S. still has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan right now. The American people look at Afghanistan and say why aren't the Afghan people getting the job done?
KARZAI: We are getting the job done. We lose daily, people. Our soldiers, our police, our civilians, our institutions. We are doing it. It's a major difficulty there, and there has to be a concerted and bigger effort in order to address it. And it takes us to the difficulties that we had in the past. But today I will not talk about them because today there's a tragedy in America. And I want to be here to support the American people and to give them our best wishes.
BLITZER: Is there an element in Afghanistan today, and be honest, that supports this terrorist and what in Afghanistan or anywhere else will support this murder.
[15:50:05] KARZAI: None. I can tell you no sane person in Afghanistan or anywhere else will support this murder, none.
BLITZER: Hamid Karzai is the former president of Afghanistan. I know you were here for the Muhammad Ali funeral services and memorial services. It was kind of you to come on this awful day here in the United States.
KARZAI: My sympathies again.
BLITZER: Hamid Karzai, thanks very much for joining us.
KARZAI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Former president of Afghanistan.
Joining us now to discuss the mass shooting is Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He's a member of the intelligence committee.
Senator Rubio, first of all, our deepest condolences to you and to all the Floridians who have been killed in this horrendous terror attack. I know you're getting briefed by authorities, there information you can share, information you can't share. What can you tell us about the involvement of ISIS in this assault?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), Florida: Well, let me say they have been very forthcoming. They are really is at this point, no real reason not to be. And so far, I think they have shared pretty much everything that we know about this.
But I think it's clear at this point, I'm safe in saying that this is an individual that was either directed or probably I think in all likelihood inspired to take on this attack by some radical Islamist element, be it ISIS or Al-Qaeda. I think there are some indications it might be ISIS. And that is the biggest threat our country now faces in terrorism. It is the home grown violent extremist.
An individual like this born in New York, raised in the United States, a U.S. citizen living among us freely. And before he reaches the age of 30, becomes radicalized and inspired to take action like he did early this morning. And there are hundreds of people like this that are watching all across the country that pose this threat. It's really an emerging threat that's very dangerous. The hardest terror threat we have ever confronted in the history of this country.
And what can you tell us, Senator, about this 9-1-1 call he placed approximately 20 minutes into this assault pledging allegiance to the leader of the Islamic state?
RUBIO: My understanding is there was such a call made. I haven't heard the recording. He pledged allegiance to ISIS, not to any particular leader. But that's irrelevant. Bottom line is, he certainly didn't do this -- this is not some confused or deranged individual. This is a terrorist. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, in the further to an ideology he has bought into, an ideology that justifies and in fact calls for the death of the infidels and he carried out this attack here in Orlando. This could have been any city in America. Unfortunately it was her. And my fear is that we are going to see more of this because you now -- you have a very significant home grown violent extremist threat in America that continues to grow and is very difficult to identify or stop.
BLITZER: What is pretty alarming, senator, is this individual worked for a security firm for nine years, a firm that had federal contracts to protect federal buildings and was on the FBI's radar, at least over the past three years or so. What can you share with us about that, the interviews, for example, this individual had with the FBI?
RUBIO: Well, I think there's two questions that need to be answered moving forward. One is how is an individual who now one or twice has now been looked at by the FBI, irrespective of whether or not they were able to find links and ties, was able to purchase weapons and then, you know, very quickly use them in this way without anybody know about it. That's a question a lot of people are asking. I suspect it's about balance between protecting people's rights, because anybody can accuse you of anything. In this case, unfortunately, it turned out to be true.
And on the other is how can this individual actually work for a company that providing security giving his FBI investigation that went in to the person? But here is the problem we have. Saying that you support the Islamic state, even saying crazy things about Islam and killing people, that in and of itself is not an arrestable offense. You can look into the people. You can investigate them, but only when once they act can you actually move on. And that's what makes this so difficult. In some cases, you may not even know them. They may not even say this to anybody. They may be radicalized but not really share it with too many people. And before you know it, it's too late. That's why I've been warning about this threat now for four years. The home grown violence experience threat is the hardest terrorist target this country's ever confronted.
BLITZER: The FBI also says this terrorist -- this terrorist Omar Saddiqui Mateen had direct contact with another Floridian, an individual name Manar Abu Salah (ph) who actually is the only American that we know of who went to Syria and became a suicide bomber. The contact was minimal and it didn't cause this individual either lose his job or the opportunity to go ahead and buy an assault rifle and a handgun. What if anything can you tell us about his contact with this other Floridian? And I know you personally are very familiar with that case.
RUBIO: Well, we are going to be, obviously, part of our oversight function in the intelligence committee, I'm sure examining how that was looked at. According to the FBI, they didn't think the link was very real and didn't see a need to pursue it further. So obviously, as part of our oversight as we move forwards, we will look at that more carefully and see just exactly how that was conducted.
But again, it goes back to the point I made earlier and that is in many cases, the links you might find might just be the fact that he visited a website or maybe spoke to him one time. They interchange direct messages. Again, I don't know the particular communication that they are talking about here. This is all very new. It is coming to us now for the first time. There are hundreds of these sorts of investigations going on simultaneously around the country.
But I think in the weeks to come as we conduct our oversight as to how the FBI investigated this individual, we are going to learn about lot more and potentially be able to improve practices. [15:55:41] BLITZER: Bottom line right now, Senator Rubio, and I know
this investigation is only beginning, what needs to be done to prevent these kinds of terror attacks down the road?
RUBIO: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is be able to defeat or take away the capabilities of the Islamic state and other such groups from going online and radicalizing people. The Islamic State has a publication called the Dabiq, spells D-A-B-I-Q. And they use that to inspire people around the world to join their cause. And one of the things they call for is specifically this kind of attack. This is exactly the kind of attack that they outline. They say go out and buy weapons or get a bomb or go into a nightclub or a sports gathering or a mall and kill people. And so, we got to take away their ability to continue to do that.
Ultimately, it is about defeating them as an entity and I think there are some progress being made there. But the bigger issue is that ISIS may be defeated but that ideology is still going to be around. It will find a new home. And the al-Nusra front, in the Khorasan group in Al Qaeda. So this is ongoing thing that ultimately is going to require the Islamic world to reject radicalism and to basically discredit it as a proper way forward. And that's a huge challenge. That is going to take a long time. And unfortunately, in the meantime, we are going to have to continue to fight the war on terror. And sadly last night, the war on terror came to Orlando.
BLITZER: Sadly indeed.
Senator Rubio, thank you very much for sharing some thoughts with us.
Once again, our deepest, deepest condolences. This has really rocked Orlando. It's rocked the country. I suspect it's rocked so much of the world. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Let's take a quick break. Our special coverage continues at the top of the hour. Moderate
[15:59:58] BLITZER: Terror in Orlando. We are following the breaking news. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We're staying on top of so many fast-moving developments on this truly horrific day, the development in Florida.