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Bill Nelson is convinced Pulse shooter was mostly ISIS-inspired, not hate-inspired

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday that after consulting top FBI officials, he’s convinced that ISIS — more than a hatred of gays — is what inspired the shooter to kill 49 people in Orlando’s popular gay nightclub.

Nelson said the motivations likely are a combination, but said the FBI convinced him that Omar Mateen‘s internet search history and other activities in the weeks leading up to the June 12 Pulse massacre suggest a growing obsession with ISIS.

“This is my opinion, but I think the when the final report is written I think we will see that the killer in Orlando was more ISIS-inspired than it being a hate crime. That might have played a part of it, but I think once the evidence is brought forth by the FBI you will see he was pretty inspired by ISIS,” Nelson said. “Of course, there may be some mental instability as well, but I cannot judge that.”

Speaking to journalists in his home office in Orlando, the Democratic senator would not many divulge details of what the FBI is finding.

He did say that Mateen had “gone to a number of sites having to do with ISIS and had read that material over a period of time.”

He also said that “every indication” shows that Mateen did not have any direct connection with any of the ISIS leadership. But Nelson added this is the way ISIS works these days.

Nelson also disputed concerns that the United States is not doing enough in the Middle East to fight ISIS. He expressed strong confidence that the American military campaign of pinpoint bombings, drone strikes and limited special forces, allied with the Iraq and friendly Middle Eastern forces, will ultimately eradicate ISIS from its two cities of strength, in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

“There is not an hour of the day that there is not an operation being conducted or being planned to be conducted against ISIS. What’s happening over in the Middle East is the two centers, the largest urban areas that ISIS is now controlling … the noose is being tightened. Those two cities basically are being surrounded now,” he said.

“It’s a matter of time before Mosul falls in Iraq. Once Raqqa falls … they will be in disarray and disorganized,” Nelson said. “However, they have metastasized this credo of violence all over.”

He also expressed confidence that Congress will pass a gun-control bill — his — in response to Orlando. His proposal would not affect the purchase of guns by anyone. But if someone has been on a terrorist watch list, and that person buys guns, the FBI would be notified. Federal authorities could then determine whether they want to check on that person.

“In buying the kinds of assault weapons that he bought and all of the clips, I think that definitely would be a tip-off to the FBI,” Nelson said of Mateen.

“I know of no opposition,” he said of the bill.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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