The wee hours of Sunday morning saw Orlando’s Pulse nightclub transformed into the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. In the aftermath, the FBI has been digging through wreckage while also searching for more clues about Omar Mateen’s motives. His ex-wife and former co-worker both showed little surprise at the actions of the unhinged, violent, and homophobic relic of their joint past.
The FBI seems more surprised, as they reportedly interviewed Mateen twice since 2013. They certainly had reason to be aware of him (one incident involved ties with an American suicide bomber), but they apparently didn’t see a reason for alarm. Well, there were signs on the horizon. Fox News unearthed details of how Mateen aligned himself with a “gang leader-turned-bank robber” named Marcus Dwayne Robertson, who’s notorious for his radical views and ability to woo recruits into committing violence:
“It is no coincidence that this happened in Orlando. Mateen was enrolled in [Robertson’s online] Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary.”
Robertson has an checkered history, to say the least. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a field radio operator until 1990 when he was discharged as a corporal. Then he went off the rails:
Robertson, a former U.S. Marine who served as a bodyguard to the Blind Sheik involved in the 1993 World Trade Center Attack and led a gang of New York bank robbers called “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” before resurfacing in Orlando, where he started an Islamic seminary. The school, recently renamed the Timbuktu Seminary, is operated by Robertson, a 47-year-old firebrand known to his thousands of followers as Abu Taubah.
As “Ali Baba,” Robertson led his gang though bank robberies at gunpoint. The group attacked and shot a handful of police officers and dabbled in explosives. This merry band of thieves worked an incredible amount of violence in one year, but the fun times ended in 1991. Robertson then served prison time and later worked as an undercover FBI operative to track terrorist plans in the U.S. and Egypt. And he maintained his radical Islamic following.
Anyhoodle, FBI Director James Comey spoke on Monday to defend his agency’s actions when dealing with Mateen. Specifically, folks want to know why Mateen was on the radar for years but removed from watchlists. Comey expressed difficulty because they couldn’t tie Mateen to a specific terrorist network. In addition, much of the circulating information — including what Mateen said in his 911 call of ISIS allegiance — is very contradictory:
“During the calls, he said he was doing this for the leader of ISIL, who he named and pledged loyalty to. But he also appeared to claim solidarity with the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing and solidarity with a Florida man who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for al-Nusra Front, a group in conflict with the so-called Islamic State. The bombers at the Boston Marathon and suicide bomber from Florida were not inspired by ISIL, which adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives.”