NEW YORK (AA) – The alleged shooter of the worst mass shooting in the U.S. was conflicted about radical groups and individuals from which he purportedly drew inspiration, the head of the FBI said Monday.
James Comey told reporters that 29-year-old U.S. citizen Omar Mateen, who attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday, appeared to reference groups that were at odds with each other.
It was "not entirely clear at this point just what terrorist group he aspired to support," Comey said.
He said Mateen had previously claimed membership to Hezbollah, a fierce enemy to Daesh, which in turn is the terrorist group the shooter declared allegiance to during a 911 call while the attack was in progress.
Comey said Mateen also cited Abu Salha, an American suicide bomber who killed himself in Syria for al-Nusra Front, another anti-Daesh group. He also referenced the Tsarnaev brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Tamerlan and Dzkhokhar Tsarnaev had no known links to terror groups.
The FBI chief did make a point, however, of saying that the agency was "highly confident that this killer was radicalized and at least in some part through the Internet".
An FBI agent told reporters Sunday that the agency interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014. The investigations related to statements made to colleagues and possible ties to Salha, proved inconclusive and Mateen was not under investigation or surveillance at the time of the attack.
Nearly all the victims of the shooting have been named. Orlando posted 46 names on its website and said the next of kin of the victims have been informed.
A day following the shooting, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Americans against blaming one religion or group in the aftermath of the attack.
"The worst thing you can do is engage in trying to point fingers at one group or one form of sectarianism or another or one division or another," Kerry told reporters before meeting Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides in Washington DC.
"Those are not the values of our country."
The shooting Sunday targeted the Pulse nightclub, which entertained as many as 300 patrons at the time.
Five victims remain in critical condition, media reports say.
Orlando Regional Medical Center said in a statement to The Associated Press that 29 victims are still hospitalized, with many still critically ill or in shock.