San Francisco: The FBI on Monday arrested the wife of the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub last year, a massacre that intensified fears about attacks against Americans inspired by ISIS, officials said.
Noor Salman, 30, is being charged with obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organisation, Orlando police chief John Mina said in a statement. Salman’s arrest came seven months after her husband, Omar Mateen, went on a hours-long siege at the Florida club that ended when police killed him. She was due to appear in federal court in Oakland, California on Tuesday morning.
“Certainly I can confirm that an arrest did occur in this case,” attorney general Loretta Lynch told MSNBC.
“We said from the beginning we were going to look at every aspect of this case, every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine – not just why did he take these actions, but who else knew about them, was anyone else involved?” Lynch said.
Salman, who has a young son by Mateen, was arrested at her home outside San Francisco, The New York Times reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official. Salman has moved at least three times since the attack, attempting to avoid the news media, The Times said.
The daughter of parents who immigrated from the West Bank in 1985, Salman was repeatedly questioned by law enforcement interrogators after the club attack, telling them she was with Mateen when he bought ammunition and conducted surveillance of the club.
But she denied any involvement in the attack or any knowledge of her husband’s plans, she told the Times in an interview published on November 1.
“I was unaware of everything,” Salman told the Times. “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.” Her husband, who was 29 at the time of his death, claimed a connection to or support for multiple Islamist extremist groups, including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, al Nusra and ISIS, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey told reporters a few days after the attack.
During the siege, Mateen spoke to a 911 emergency dispatcher and expressed solidarity with an al Nusra suicide bomber as well as ISIS.
Representatives of the FBI could not be reached immediately for more details.
The Orlando massacre came about seven months after a husband and wife who sympathised with Islamic extremists opened fire in December 2015 on a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 and wounding 22 others.