Death toll rises to 59 in US mass shooting

Man looks through the scope of a gun. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

LAS VEGAS: A gunman rained a rapid-fire barrage on an outdoor concert festival on Sunday night from a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel, leaving at least 59 people dead, injuring 527 others, and sending thousands of terrified survivors fleeing for cover, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, reports The New York Times.

Online video of the attack which took place near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino showed the singer Jason Aldean’s performance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the last performance at the three-day country music event, being interrupted by the sound of gunfire. The music stopped, and as victims fell bleeding, concertgoers screamed, ducked for cover or ran.

The police found the gunman, whom they identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, dead in his room at the hotel and believed he had killed himself.

The Islamic State claimed that Paddock was one of its soldiers, but did not provide any evidence of its claim. The F.B.I. said there was no evidence so far that Paddock had ties to any international terrorist organisation, and relatives said he had not displayed strong political or ideological beliefs in their interactions with him.

Speaking at the White House, President Trump condemned the shooting as an “act of pure evil” and called for the country to come together, saying, “Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”

At least 17 firearms, including a handgun, were found in Paddock’s hotel room, said Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Some were rifles equipped with scopes, he said, adding that Paddock used multiple rifles during the attack.

The gunman had also broken two separate windows in the hotel room through which to take aim at the concert goers below.

In addition to the weapons at the hotel, the sheriff said the police retrieved “in excess of” 18 firearms, as well as explosives, several thousand rounds of ammunition and “electronic devices” from Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nevada.

Paddock, 64, was described as a high-flying gambler who lived in a quiet retirement community and played golf. Officials said he had no significant criminal history and drew little attention to himself.

Investigators are trying to piece together his financial history to search for clues that could help determine what set him off.

The Islamic State claimed on Monday that the gunman was “a Soldier of the Islamic State,” but the group did not provide any evidence for its claim. The group has generally claimed violence carried out only by those directed by the terrorist group, or else by assailants who were inspired by their ideology. However, in recent months, the group has made at least two false claims, including for an attack on a casino in Manila and a bomb plot at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Aaron Rouse, the F.B.I. special agent in charge in Las Vegas, said that so far there was no proof that Paddock had links to any international terrorist organisation.

Citing a “source,” the terror group’s Amaq news agency said the assailant had “responded to calls for targeting Coalition countries.”

That phrase is a reference to a 2014 speech by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a former Islamic State spokesman, who called for sympathizers around the world to carry out violence in the group’s name on the soil of countries involved in the fight against ISIS.

In a second bulletin about the Las Vegas shooting, Amaq said the attacker had converted to Islam months earlier.