President Obama says don’t worry, the Orlando terrorist was just another “lone actor” operating in isolation, unconnected to any larger group of supporters. In fact, these so-called “lone wolves” are running in packs, and suggesting otherwise gives the public a false sense of security.
Yet Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson echoed Obama, saying Omar Mateen was “self-radicalized” without any religious, ideological or operational support from friends, family or others in the Muslim community.
“What we do know at this point is it appears this was a case of self-radicalization,” Johnson said. “He does not appear to have been part of any group.”
A more accurate picture is that Mateen, an Afghan-American, was part of a disturbingly large Muslim family of sympathizers, supporters and even co-conspirators.
For starters, his wife could face criminal charges in the attack on the gay Orlando nightclub, the deadliest act of terrorism in the US since 9/11. Noor Zahi Salman, who wed Mateen in 2011, reportedly told the FBI she knew about her husband’s planned attack and even drove him to the site of the massacre as part of a scouting operation. She also is said to have helped him case the Disney Springs shopping complex. What’s more, Salman allegedly was with Mateen when he bought ammo and a holster used in the attack.
His Afghan immigrant father, who founded a nonprofit group to support the Taliban, preached gays should be punished. In a video Seddique Mir Mateen posted on the Web, he expresses gratitude toward the Afghan Taliban, who stone homosexuals to death, calling them “our warrior brothers.”
Other Mateen videos are full of anti-US rhetoric regarding America’s military role in Afghanistan. That influence may have showed up in his 29-year-old son’s statement to a 911 operator during the mass shooting.
His father’s anti-American views may have seeped into the terrorist’s psyche at an earlier age. High-school classmates recall a 14-year-old Mateen jumping up and down and cheering the attacks on 9/11. “That’s what America deserves,” he reportedly exclaimed, while praising Osama bin Laden.
Mateen likely absorbed more anti-gay and anti-US messaging at the small Fort Pierce, Fla., mosque his father helped run. Authorities say the radical Islamic center has been a “breeding ground” for terrorists, including the first American suicide bomber in Syria, alongside whom Omar Mateen prayed. Mateen worshipped there for more than a dozen years, praying up to four times a week. State incorporation records show the senior Mateen served as the mosque’s vice president and sat on its board for several years.
Just weeks before the attack, property records I’ve obtained show Omar Mateen transferred his interest in a Fort Pierce condo over to one of the sisters and and the Afghan brother-in-law, a possible indication the family could have had some knowledge of his martyrdom plans. Authorities say the fatally wounded Mateen clearly was prepared to die in a gun battle.
The mysterious brother-in-law–Mustafa Abasin, aka Mustafa Aurakzai, who shows an intense hatred for Donald Trump on social media–has been questioned by federal investigators, along with other family members. I’m also told FBI agents have expanded the investigation overseas to family connections in Afghanistan. On Friday, both Mateen’s widow and father were placed on the federal no-fly list.