A hacking group that supports the Islamic State, aka ISIS, posted a threat days before the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, that left 50 people dead on Sunday.
The so-called “United Cyber Caliphate,” a hacking group that is pro-ISIS, posted a “kill list” that targeted Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast in Florida, West Palm Beach CBS affiliate News3 reported days before the mass shooting. The gunman, Omar Mateek, reportedly swore allegiance to ISIS during the massacre.
The Treasure Coast in Florida includes St. Lucie, which is where Mateek, 29, had been living. He traveled nearly 100 miles to Orlando to carry out the mass shooting, officials said.
Vocativ reported last week that the “kill list” was shared via the encrypted app Telegram, calling on ISIS supporters to kill. About 7,848 Americans were included on the list, with more than 643 names listed in Florida.
“It is unclear, however, if the list, posted on Telegram on Monday, includes any new information or details that weren’t already accessible online. It’s also unclear why the specific names and addresses outlined were selected, and whether or not they’re in some way related,” Vocativ said in its report, published June 8.
Former FBI agent-turned lawyer Stuart Kaplan said that people on the list are civilians—and not U.S. or military officials. “It’s going to create some hysteria,” he said.
Kaplan said that he was worried the list would inspire a “lone wolf”-type attack. “If in fact a sympathizer gets ahold of this list and is readily able to identify you as being his neighbor and, then, decides (because they’re a sympathizer) to go out and do something horrific to you, there is no way to calculate the potential or to prevent that,” he told News3.
The FBI’s Ronald Hopper said Sunday that Mateen was investigated by the agency in 2013 when he made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers about having terrorist ties. “In the course of the investigation, Mateen was interviewed twice,” Hopper told NPR.
The investigation was closed after 10 months. But again, in 2014, the FBI investigated him when he was linked to Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American who carried out a suicide bombing attack in Syria that year.
Public records show Mateen had a firearm license since 2011, and he was licensed as a security officer.
“Mateen was subject to detailed company screening when he was recruited in 2007 and re-screened in 2013 with no adverse findings,” global security firm G4S said. “He was also subject to checks by a U.S. law enforcement agency with no findings reported to G4S.”
On Monday, President Obama said the gunman appeared to be motivated by extremist propaganda online, but he stressed that investigators haven’t found anything that suggests a link with radical Islamic groups.
“We see no clear evidence that he was directed externally,” Obama said in the Oval Office. “It does appear that at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL. But there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by ISIL, and at this stage there’s no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot.” ISIL is the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for ISIS.