Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that he was told the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting suspect pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“What I’ve heard from the Department of Homeland Security this morning is that, according to local police, he made a pledge of allegiance to ISIL,” Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.
“[He] was heard praying in a foreign language, and I don’t know if this was at some point during the course of the shooting, but that’s what I’m hearing, obviously second-hand, coming ultimately from local police.”
NBC News’s Pete Williams said law enforcement officials told him that the gunman called 911 just before the killing spree began, and pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
An Iraqi TV channel reported Friday that Islamic State leader had been wounded in an air strike in northern Iraq, but U.S. and Iraqi officials could not confirm that, Reuters reported.
Schiff said the LGBT community is often a target of ISIS. The attack at the gay Orlando nightclub, which killed 50 people, occurred during LGBT Pride Month.
“We’ve seen horrific reports over the last couple of years of gruesome killings of gay and LGBT people in Syria and Iraq, thrown off the top of buildings.”
The circumstances surrounding the attack “are highly indicative of an ISIL-inspired attack,” he added.
“Whether this was ISIL-directed, we don’t know,” he added.
Schiff cautioned against jumping to conclusions, noting it is still early in the investigation.
“Often the information you get at the very early stage of an investigation turns out to be, at least in part, erroneous,” he said.
“So I think we all have to let the FBI do its job and wait to see the full evidence that comes forward.”
In a statement released Sunday, Schiff said it was “horrifying” to wake up to news of the attack — what appears to be the “deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.”
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims, and those who are still waiting to hear news about whether their loved ones are safe,” he said.
“The fact that this shooting took place during Ramadan and that ISIS leadership in Raqqa has been urging attacks during this time, that the target was an LGBT night club during Pride, and – if accurate – that according to local law enforcement the shooter declared his allegiance to ISIS, indicates an ISIS-inspired act of terrorism.”
(via: The Hill)