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Officials Work to Unravel Mystery Behind Orlando Gunman’s Two Trips to Saudi Arabia


Omar Mateen was first brought to the FBI's attention three years ago.

The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (File Photo: Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)

Florida law enforcement officials held a press conference Monday to brief the media on the ongoing investigation into Sunday’s shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. As authorities continue to search for a possible motive for the attack that killed 49, Orlando Police Chief John Mina provided more details regarding events leading up to the attack.

Omar Mateen, the U.S.-born shooter who reportedly called 911 during the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group, apparently took two trips to Saudi Arabia in recent years — one in 2011 and another in 2012. Federal officials told NBC News that it was not immediately clear what Mateen was doing there.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Ministry of the Interior, however, told NBC that Mateen had visited to perform a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy site of Mecca.

Mateen was first brought to the FBI's attention three years ago, after co-workers reported him for making "inflammatory" comments to them about radical Islamic propaganda, NBC reported.

A year later, in 2014, the FBI flagged him again for being linked to an American who went to the Middle East to become a suicide bomber. Agents determined at the time that contact between the men was minimal.

Mateen was not under FBI surveillance Sunday, when he shot more than 100 people at the gay Orlando nightclub.

Law enforcement officials said there was no indication at the time that Mateen was in touch with terrorists overseas or that the attack was directed by an outside group.

U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley III said there was "no reason to believe" anyone connected to the shooting posed an "imminent danger" to the community.

Mateen was armed during the attack with an assault-style weapon and a pistol. A third weapon was later found in his car, authorities said Monday.

Officials announced that 100 leads have emerged amid the ongoing investigation.

"No stone will be left unturned and we'll follow the leads wherever they take us," FBI special agent Paul Wyposal said at Monday's press conference.

Wyposal added that teams of agents have been working "around the clock" processing a "great amount" of electronic and physical evidence, but noted that the investigation is "still in the early stages."

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