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Orlando Massacre: Bizarre Trail Of Online Rants Posted By Suspect's Immigrant Father

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, has left U.S. authorities poring over possible clues to explain the motives of the gunman.

The suspect, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, is thought to have killed at least 49 people and left more than 50 others injured in a three-hour shooting rampage before being shot dead himself when police stormed the Pulse nightclub in the early hours of June 12.

Some of the earliest clues as to Mateen's possible motives came from an unlikely source: the suspect's Afghan-born father, Seddique Mateen (aka Mir Seddique).

Early media reports suggested the younger Mateen cited a hatred for homosexuals and an allegiance to the radical militant group Islamic State (IS) in a phone call to the 911 emergency number during the attack, and former acquaintances and colleagues have been quoted as suggesting the suspect held numerous minorities in contempt. (It would be the latest in a number of deadly attacks in the West by killers proclaiming allegiance to IS, dating back to an attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels in May 2014 and continuing through the November 2015 Paris attacks and the San Bernardino, California, attack in December.)

But the elder Mateen asserted in an interview with NBC News that his son's actions had "nothing to do with religion." He also said Omar Mateen had been angered recently by the sight of two men kissing in public in Miami in front of his 3-year-old son.

Seddique Mateen then posted a video on Facebook on June 13 that drew further attention to the suspected gunman's history, including his family and the politically charged and seemingly religiously inspired convictions expressed by his father. In it, he appeared to suggest that his son had acted according to his understanding of Islamic principles that forbid homosexuality.

It is unclear whether, or to what extent, the younger man shared his father's views, and authorities in the United States have not suggested Omar Mateen's actions on June 12 were influenced by actions or statements from his family. But Seddique Mateen's fulminations are certain to continue to attract media attention.

Omar Mateen

Omar Mateen

In his Facebook video, in Dari, one of two official languages of Afghanistan, Seddique Mateen asked aloud of his son "why he committed such act in the [Islamic] holy month of Ramadan." He continued: "The issue of homosexuality, the punishment, whatever they do, God punishes it. It's not up to God's servants."

He added: "May God give all young people full health so that they follow the real path of the sacred religion of Islam."

The older Mateen, who is reportedly based in Florida, also said that he was deeply saddened and puzzled over the actions of his son, whom he described as a "good kid."

"I don't understand what made him do it. I don't know. I didn't realize he had [hatred] in his heart," Mateen added.

Seddique Mateen did not respond to a Facebook inquiry for comment and did not answer RFE/RL's calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

The Facebook video was subsequently removed.

The elder Mateen appears to have tried to carve out a niche as a commentator through video messages and an occasional satellite television broadcast believed to have a tiny audience, at best, in his country of origin. He has frequently railed against the actions of Pakistan, an archenemy of Afghanistan for decades, and appeared to have outsized opinions of his own influence.

The Facebook video after his son's alleged attack is no exception, as Seddique Mateen adds: "We in the international media, all U.S. TV channels, have been highlighting what Pakistan had done and why young people are suffering from mental problems because their country is not in peace. It's Pakistan that brings distress."

In his videos and seemingly obscure political show, the elder Mateen has attacked Pakistan and Iran as "Afghanistan's enemies," announced his would-be candidacy for the Afghan presidency (a year after the election), boasted of having appointed a cabinet, and purported to have ordered the arrest of Afghan officials.

Seddique Mateen's effort for broadcast notoriety included a January 2014 interview with the current president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani.

In a bizarre clip showing Seddique Mateen in military fatigues and posted hours before his son is thought to have mounted his attack in Orlando, Seddique Mateen described Ghani as a "traitor" and urged his and other officials' arrests. Targeting "the revolutionary people of Afghanistan" with his remarks, Mateen says that each one of them has the power to arrest Ghani and other current and former officials, including Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and former U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad, and "rid Afghanistan of them."

Also on June 12, Mateen posted to Facebook the image of a green T-shirt with his photo printed on it with the slogan "Seddique Mateen the real leader of the people of Afghanistan."

In a video posted roughly four months ago, Seddique Mateen criticizes the hard-line Islamist Taliban who were ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 but continue to fight against Afghanistan's central government, accusing them of killing Afghan people and weakening Islam.

"How can you and dare you kill Afghans, put bombs in the soil of Afghanistan and smitten Afghanistan in front of Punjabi ISI?" he asks the Taliban, in a reference to Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

In a 2015 video, Seddique Mateen praises the Taliban while referring to territorial claims that some Afghans have made against Pakistan along the border of the two countries, known as the Durand Line.

"Our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in the Taliban movement and in the Afghan National Army are rising up. [God willing], the Durand issue will be solved in the near future," he says in a political show, titled The Durand Jirga Show, on a satellite channel called Payam-e Afghan that is broadcast from California.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at