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Update [4PM]: What we know so far:
- 50 people were killed and 53 were injured in a shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida last night. It was the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
- The gunman, who was among the dead, has been identified by the authorities as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old US citizen of Afghan descent from Fort Pierce in Florida.
- President Obama condemned the event as an "act of terror and hate", cautioning that the FBI's investigation into the massacre is still in its preliminary stages.
- Members of the nightlife and LGBT communities have responded to the shooting, condemning the tragic loss of life.
- There will be a moment of silence for the victims at 6PM EST today.
- There is a hotline for people who are worried a loved one might be a victim: 407.246.4357.
At least 50 people were killed and 53 were injured when a gunman opened fire in the early hours of the morning on Sunday June 13 at Pulse, a downtown Orlando LGBT nightclub. The gunman, identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, was among the dead in what was the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Mateen, 29-year-old US citizen of Afghan descent, went on a shooting spree around 2AM at the Florida club where a Latin Night was under way. More than 100 people were reportedly inside the club at the time of the shooting.
President Obama condemned the massacre as an "act of terror and hate" in a White House address. "We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city," he said. "This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends and fellow Americans who are lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual."
President Obama went on to speak of the fact the shooting took place in a club, a place he described as somewhere "people came to dance and to sign and to live … 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".
The President confirmed an FBI investigation is underway into the shooting, which happened in the middle of Pride Month.
In an interview with NBC News, Mir Seddique, Mateen's father, said, "this has nothing to do with religion." According to Seddique, his son became angry months ago when he saw two men kissing in Miami. Seddique thinks the incidents might be related. "We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident. We weren't aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country," said Seddique.
The attack allegedly began inside the nightclub and moved outside after an Orlando police officer confronted the attacker. The gunman then went back inside of the club, continued the attack and took hostages. Shortly after the attack began, Pulse posted an urgent message to guests on their Facebook page, writing, "Everyone get out of pulse and keep running."
Police used a "controlled explosion" to rescue the hostages around 5AM and nine police officers were reportedly involved in the shooting with the gunman. According to additional reports from the police, the gunman also carried a device and officers are combing the club for explosives. Police are urging anyone with information to call the FBI hotline on 1-800-CALL FBI.
Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer, confirmed that Mayor's Office will be releasing the names of the victims once next of kin has been notified. Condemning the attack, Mayor Dyer said: "We need to support each other, love each other and this will not define us but will bring us together."
The Mayor's office has also opened a hotline for anyone who is believes a loved one might be a victim of the shooting to call (407.246.4357).
This Saturday was Latin Night at Pulse, featuring a lineup of reggaeton, bachata, merengue and salsa music. As one of the most popular nightclubs in the city, Pulse regularly welcomes a range of performers and musicians within the LGBT community and across music genres.
The club posted an update on the attack to their Facebook page, stating, "As soon as we have any information we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love."