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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Orlando nightclub gunman's widow charged with helping husband ahead of attack

Law enforcement officials work at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando following the mass shooting (AP)
Law enforcement officials work at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando following the mass shooting (AP)

The widow of the Orlando nightclub gunman has been charged with helping her husband in the months leading up to the massacre that left 49 people dead.

Noor Salman, 30, is due in federal court in Oakland on Tuesday, following her arrest a day earlier on the Florida charges.

The two-count indictment accuses her of knowingly aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, in providing material support and resources to the Islamic State group between April and June of last year.

It also says she knowingly misled police and the FBI after the June 12 attack at the Pulse nightclub.

The charging document does not give additional details on Salman's actions.

Salman is from the San Francisco Bay Area and in the aftermath of the Orlando attack that also left her husband dead she returned there with their son, whose name she has since sought to change.

She was repeatedly questioned by FBI investigators over whether she had any knowledge of her husband's plans.

Her lawyer Linda Moreno said after her arrest that she "had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night".

Salman told The New York Times in an interview published in November that she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos but was "unaware of everything" regarding his intent to shoot up the club.

Salman also said he had physically abused her, which her lawyer reiterated on Monday.

"Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands," Ms Moreno said.

"We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonours the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person."

The San Francisco office of the FBI said Salman was taken into custody in Rodeo, which is the small Bay Area community where she grew up and where her family lives.

Jail records, however, say she was arrested about 30 miles away in Dublin. The reason for the discrepancy was not clear.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an interview with MSNBC that "from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of 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?"

Salman met Mateen online and the two married in 2011.

They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the shooting.

Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the three-hour standoff that ended in his death.

Forty-nine patrons were killed and another 53 were taken to hospital.

"Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbours, friends, family members and loved ones," Orlando Police Chief John Mina said on Monday.

"But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime."

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