The man who killed 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, at the weekend had earlier scouted Walt Disney World as a potential target, according to US reports.
In the worst gun rampage in US history, the gunman’s victims included travel agent Edward Sotomayor, 34, described as ‘super bright’ by his employer.
FBI director James Comey said the FBI is checking whether the shooter, who pledged allegiance to Islamic terror group ISIS before he struck, had recently scouted Walt Disney World and other locations as possible targets.
People.com reported that the gunman, Omar Mateen, an American-born Muslim, visited Walt Disney World in April with his wife, Noor Zahi Salman. The website quoted an unidentified federal law enforcement source saying Salman told federal authorities that her husband had more recently been “scouting Downtown Disney and Pulse [nightclub] for attacks”.
People.com said that, unlike the four Disney World theme parks, Downtown Disney, which was recently renamed Disney Springs, doesn’t check bags before entry. In contrast, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot have installed metal detectors outside the gates since 2015 and also select guests at random for screening.
When asked whether the gunman had reconnoitred Disney and other locations, FBI director Comey replied “we’re still working through that”.
The gunman eventually chose Pulse, a gay nightclub, for his murderous rampage.
One of the victims has been identified as Edward Sotomayor, 34, a travel agent.
Sotomayor was “super bright,” his employer Al Ferguson told the Orlando Sentinel. Sotomayor worked as a brand manager at Al and Chuck Travel, an agency focused on booking holidays for gay men. He well knew the perils that gay, lesbian and transgender travellers could face because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, Ferguson said, but that didn’t deter him from travelling and exploring.
“He was a person who said: ‘We cannot be afraid,’” Ferguson told the Sentinel.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation issued a statement yesterday strongly condemning the horrendous attack.
“UNWTO is deeply shocked by the tragic attack perpetrated in Orlando, USA. On the behalf of the international tourism community, UNWTO expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims, to the American people and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community worldwide in this difficult moment,” UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said.
“On the behalf of the international tourism community, UNWTO conveys its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and expresses its full solidarity with the people and the Government of United States of America.
“This hideous crime reminds us once again we are facing a global threat and that we need to more than ever stay together, strengthen our cooperation and continue to fight prejudice.”
Written by Peter Needham