The terrorist who killed at least 49 people in an Orlando nightclub early Sunday was an angry loner who beat his ex-wife, alienated his co-workers and made at least two mysterious trips to Saudi Arabia, according to people who knew him and law enforcement authorities who are now investigating his descent into radical Islam.
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey said that three phone calls between Omar Mateen and a 911 operator while Mateen was barricaded in a club bathroom with hostages may provide insight into his radicalization. During those calls, Comey said, Mateen “made clear his support for” ISIS and pledged loyalty to the terror group’s leader.
At the same time, Mateen also “claimed solidarity” with the Boston Marathon bombers (who learned how to make their pressure cooker bomb from an Al Qaeda-affiliated magazine) and a man who blew himself up in Syria during an operation for the Al-Nusra Front.
invesigation into Omar Mateen reveal that he purchased at least two of the weapons used during the Orlando terror attack from the St. Lucie Shooting Center.
The investigation has revealed a pair of trips Mateen took to Saudi Arabia in March 2011 and March 2012 for “Umrah”, a non-mandatory visit to Mecca for Muslims. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed the trips to The Associated Press in a text message Monday. He stayed for 10 days during the first trip and eight days during the second trip.
“We obviously don’t know the details yet, but it’s worth recalling how the San Bernardino shooters met in Saudi Arabia and were engaged there,” said Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst for the Clarion Project. “These trips to Saudi Arabia also make it less likely that Mateen is a so-called ‘lone wolf’ who acted mostly independently.”
Mateen first appeared on the FBI’s radar in May 2013 after co-workers at a courthouse where he worked as a contract security guard reported that Mateen made claims he had family in Al Qaeda, and was himself a member of Hezbollah. Mateen said he hoped law enforcement officials would raid his apartment and “assault his wife and child so he could martyr himself,” Comey said. He’s also alleged to have claimed a connection to the Boston Marathon bombers, The Washington Post reported.
Mateen told agents he had made the terror statements in anger “because co-workers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim.” Investigators came to believe the statements were merely boasts and Mateen, and the issue was dropped.
FBI agents were back at Mateen’s door just a few months later in July 2014, this time because of possible ties to American-born suicide bomber Moner Abu-Salha, who blew himself up in Syria in 2014 on behalf of Al-Nusra Front. During its investigation, the FBI learned that Mateen, who attended the same Fort Pierce mosque as Salha, had watched online videos of an Islamist terror leader. However, FBI agents determined Mateen’s contact with Salha was “minimal.” Mateen was not the subject of the investigation and agents did not have further contact with him.
His first wife, who was born in Uzbekistan and met Mateen on the Internet, told The Washington Post that he frequently beat her after their 2009 marriage. They divorced in 2011.
“He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that,” said his ex-wife.