The father of the gunman behind the Florida massacre voiced sadness that his son took it upon himself to attack the gay community, saying it was “up to God to punish homosexuals”.
In a video posted on Facebook early Monday, Seddique Mateen said he was grieved by the rampage that left 49 people dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando, calling the 29-year-old killer Omar Mateen a “good and educated son”.
“I am deeply saddened and have announced this to the people of America,” Seddique said in the three-minute video in the Dari language, voicing disbelief that his son carried out the killings during the holy month of Ramadan.
“It is up to God to punish homosexuals. It is not up to servants,” the US resident added, sitting before a flag of his home country Afghanistan.
The assault, the worst mass shooting in modern US history, has triggered an outpouring of grief but also defiance in the gay and lesbian community.
The father is a minor celebrity in Afghan political circles in the US, hosting an occasional television show in which he expresses hardline views – dressed sometimes in a pinstripe suit and other times in military fatigues.
In the “Durand Jirga Show” available on YouTube, he rails against the Pakistani government and announces a quixotic bid to seek the Afghan presidency.
Killer Omar Mateen.
Sitting like a statesman with an Afghan flag in the background, he lauds the Taliban as his “warrior brothers” in one of the videos.
“The Taliban are 100% Afghan,” said a large yellow signboard he held up in a picture he posted on social media.
But his sympathy for the militant group appears confused at best, as he pillories Taliban leaders in various Facebook posts for alleged links with the Pakistani military establishment.
Officials in Afghanistan sought to distance themselves from the family, saying they did not know when exactly Seddique had left the conflict-torn country.
“All we can say is that he (Mateen) is a US citizen of Afghan origin. He had been living in the US for decades, and that is all we know from the media,” a foreign ministry official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
A senior Taliban source on the border dismissed any association with the family, pointing out that Mateen was born, lived and worked in the US.
“I don’t even consider him as a jihadi,” the source said.
The FBI has admitted that Mateen – who was born to Afghan parents in New York – had previously been investigated, but cleared, for ties to a US suicide bomber.
The Islamic State group on Monday claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying in a radio bulletin that it was carried out by “one of the soldiers of the caliphate”.
US President Barack Obama said the FBI was investigating the killings “as an act of terrorism”.