• Trump calls shooting ‘act of pure evil’, other world leaders react
Okechukwu Uwaezuoke with agency report
At least 58 people have been confirmed dead and over 500 wounded in what has been described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
A gunman identified as 64-year-old Nevada resident, Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel towards an open-air music festival attended by 22,000 in Las Vegas.
The shooting, said the local police, started at 22.08 local time on Sunday (05:08 GMT on Monday).
Paddock, a native of Mesquite, some 60 miles (100 km) north-east of Las Vegas, was believed to have been living in the hotel since September 28 and had unleashed hundreds of rounds of ammunition from a cache of weapons towards the revellers.
According to eyewitness accounts, hundreds of shots were fired as hundreds of people fled the scene.
The sound of what appeared to be prolonged automatic gunfire could be heard on videos posted on the social media. Many hotels on the Las Vegas strip close to the scene remained on police lockdown and parts of the Las Vegas Boulevard were shut.
The shooter, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, was later found dead in a room on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel in an apparent suicide.
Lombardo said Paddock opened fire from the room and had acted alone. The authorities, according to him, had not completed an investigation into Paddock’s background and history.
But the police department, he added, had located a number of firearms in the room he occupied in the hotel. Officers will also be carrying out a search on Paddock’s residence.
Earlier, the police announced they were seeking a woman, Marilou Danley, Paddock’s partner, in connection with the shooting.
But in his latest update, Sheriff Lombardo said she had been located outside the U.S. and was believed not to have played any role in the massacre.
Danley was believed to have lived with Paddock, and Sheriff Lombardo said he used some of her identity documents to check into the hotel.
The FBI also spoke with Eric Paddock, the brother of the gunman, at his home in central Florida. Eric also gave a few interviews at greater length.
“He was my brother and it’s like an asteroid fell out of the sky,” Eric told CNN. He said he last spoke to his brother when Stephen wanted to check in on their mother after Hurricane Irma.
He also expressed shock and horror to CBS that his brother could commit such a crime. He had “no religious affiliation, no political affiliation, he just hung out”, Eric said.
“He’s not an avid gun guy at all. The fact that he had those kinds of weapons is just – where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He has no military background or anything like that. He’s just a guy who lived in a house in Mesquite, drove down and gambled in Las Vegas. He did stuff. Ate burritos,” the gunman’s younger brother said.
Eric said when he heard the news he became scared for his brother’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, worrying that “he might’ve hurt her too”.
Even as the police said Paddock had no known connection to terrorism, the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting – an assertion dismissed by the FBI.
The terror group’s news agency Amaq had claimed: “The Las Vegas attack was carried out by a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried it out in response to calls to target states of the coalition,” adding: “The Las Vegas attacker converted to Islam a few months ago.”
The FBI, however, said Monday that it found no evidence that the attacker had ties to any international terror group. “We have determined at this point no connection to an international terrorist organisation,” the New York Post quoted an FBI agent as saying in a press conference.
The U.S. newspaper also noted that the IS statement did not include the attacker’s name and came after the group had on Friday released an audio recording of what it alleged was the voice of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calling on jihadists in Syria and Iraq to “resist” their enemies.
In an address from the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump said the nation was “joined together today in sadness, shock and grief”. Describing the attack as “an act of pure evil”, he reassured Americans that the security agencies “are working closely with local authorities to assist with the investigation and they will provide updates as to the investigation and how it develops”.
Among the other reactions were those of UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who tweeted: “The UK’s thoughts are with the victims and emergency services responding to the appalling attack in Las Vegas,” and UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said: “The United Kingdom stands with the American people against this indiscriminate violence. My thoughts are with all those caught up in it.”
Also reacting to the attack, American country music singer Jason Adlean, who was performing at the festival at the time of the mass shooting, wrote on his Instagram account: “Tonight has been beyond horrific… My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also tweeted: “Australia mourns with America tonight after shocking senseless attack in Las Vegas.”