Orlando, Florida – On Monday the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arrested Noor Salman Mateen, wife of Omar Mateen; the man responsible for the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, FL in June 2016. 49 club-goers were gunned down in one of the United States’ bloodiest mass killings. Orlando police chief John Mina released a statement later that day confirming that Noor Salman was in fact taken into custody at her family’s home in San Francisco on the charges of aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice.
In a statement to the media, Orlando Police Chief Mina added that he is “[G]lad to see that Omar Mateen’s wife has been charged with aiding her husband in a commission of the brutal attack on the Pulse nightclub.” He went on to praise the FBI investigators by stating that the FBI “have been working tirelessly on this case for more than seven months, and we are grateful that they have seen to it that some measure of justice will be served in this act of terror.” These charges that have been placed upon Noor Salman are substantial and carry a hefty penalty of 20 years to life if convicted.
“I’m the shooter. It’s me. I am the shooter.”
Events leading up to the Pulse nightclub attack have only come to light recently in regards to Salman’s purported involvement with Mateen’s plot to kill as many club goers as possible in Orlando. In Salman’s initial interview with the media she denied any knowledge of Mateen’s plan to execute a mass killing spree. However, after several hours of questioning the FBI made her a person of interest as she described being along for drives into Orlando in what Federal investigators are calling “reconnaissance trips.” During these trips, she drove Omar past the Pulse nightclub a couple of times as well as at least one ‘drive’ around the Walt Disney theme park in Orlando as well. Salman also recounted that she was with Omar Mateen when he purchased ammunition and a holster for his sidearm just prior the attack. The most damaging statement. Salman made however was during an investigation interview that she had actually tried to talk Omar out of his plan to attack the Pulse nightclub which denotes that she had prior knowledge of her husband’s intent and did not report it to law enforcement. This could be a major piece in the ‘aiding and abetting’ portion of the charges as US Code states:
(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.”
Salman has continually maintained that she was completely unaware of what her husband was up to or had planned. Back in an interview in November, she reiterated her claim of innocence by denouncing her late husband’s grisly act and stated that “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people. How can someone be capable of that?” All of this in itself paints the picture of Salman’s potential prior knowledge of her husband Omar Mateen’s actions. That is serious enough, now add in the heaviest of charges by way of providing material support to a terrorist organization and that adds up to a potential for at minimum life in prison.
Twenty minutes into the Pulse shooting Omar Mateen made a call to 911. Mateen declared he was the perpetrator of the shooting taking place within the club while rambling about being inspired by the Boston Bombing suspects calling them his “homeboys” as well as swearing allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. At 2:45 am, shortly after Orlando SWAT arrived to the scene. Mateen made another call to a the local Orlando News 13 where he proclaimed that “I’m the shooter. It’s me. I am the shooter” and declared publicly that his attack on the patrons were on behalf of the Islamic State then dropped into a rapid almost incoherent diatribe in Arabic. Salman texted her husband asking where he was after receiving a frantic call from her mother who heard the initial reports of the Orlando attack. Mateen answered her text while still inside the club and asked if she had seen the news yet. She had not and he replied with “I love you, babe.” According to Salman that was the last communication she had with her husband calling several times during the standoff that went unanswered. Salman found out about the fate of her husband shortly after 5:00 am after SWAT officers breached an outer wall by driving an armored vehicle through it. The SWAT officers threw several flash-bangs to disorient Omar Mateen as they dynamically entered the club. Yet Mateen engaged the SWAT officers in a short-lived gun battle and was fatally shot at least eight times.
The FBI took Mateen’s oath of loyalty to the Islamic State seriously and along with the CIA began to investigate the attack as a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist plot. Of course ISIS was beyond pleased with the attack and the free advertising that Mateen provided. The terror group released a statement through its news agency, Amaq News declaring Omar Mateen as “one of the Caliphate’s soldiers in America who carried out a security invasion where he was able to enter a crusader gathering at a nightclub for homosexuals.” They praised the lone wolf jihadist as a hero following the leader al-Baghdadi’s call for attacks on the kaffirs during the holy month of Ramadan. However the FBI, CIA, and even ISIS themselves could not show any previous connections to the terror group by Mateen prior to the attack on the Pulse nightclub. And that’s how ISIS likes it. According to the Islamic State’s spokesperson, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani specifically instructs potential ‘lone wolf’ attackers to “not ask for anyone’s permission. This allows ‘lone wolves’ to plan and carry out missions and avoids the chances of leaks or infiltration by security agencies.” With fealty being given to the Islamic State and al-Baghdadi before, during, or after the attack, it’s a win/win for the Islamic State.
Omar Mateen’s declaration of loyalty to the Islamic State, plus ISIS’s response to the gruesome attack at the nightclub could be what is driving the FBI to charge Noor Salman with aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization. Salman driving Mateen on what federal investigators are calling “reconnaissance trips” as well as admitting prior knowledge that her husband was A) planning an attack and B) not reporting this to law enforcement could be the driving factors that led to her being arrested under these charges. 18 U.S. Code 2339B summarizes material support to a terrorist organization as such:
“Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. To violate this paragraph, a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization.”
Little is known if Mrs. Salman was in fear for her life and the life of her child due to Mateen having a well-documented issue with domestic abuse and battery of both Mrs. Salman and his ex-wife. That potentially could have led to her not reporting her husbands actions out of fear. And more than likely the defense will present these findings as a major part of Mrs. Salman’s defense in the upcoming trial. Being beaten, punched, kicked, and dragged through your home by your hair can create such a fearful and submissive survival scenario that many cannot fathom. Yet, this starts the path to closure for the families and communities of Orlando victimized by such a heinous act of violence. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer echoed just that in a statement on Monday by first thanking FBI investigators; “We appreciate the FBI and all law enforcement agencies who worked tirelessly and were dedicated to bringing some justice to this terrible tragedy.” Mayor Dyer then focused his statement on the people of Orlando, “Our community continues to heal and we remain focused on taking care of the needs of the victims and their families.”
Feature Photo: CNN