Early Sunday morning, Orlando, Florida, was the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The massacre at Pulse nightclub was also the worst act of terrorism on American soil since September 11, 2001, and the deadliest attack on a gay target in the nation’s history, says The New York Times.
The gunman, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIS, the so-called Islamic State. His father told MSNBC that the shooting at the gay club was not about his son’s religion, but that his son became very angry after seeing two men kissing in Miami months ago.
News surfaced of ties to an influential Muslim leader named Marcus Dwayne Robertson, who was recently released from prison and has openly expressed his opposition of gays. Read on for more about the man possibly responsible, in part, for this deadly attack.
1. He’s a Former U.S. Marine & FBI Agent
Robertson has served in the U.S. military and worked for the FBI.
According to Fox News, people who know Robertson say he became “disenchanted” while in the military. He claims to have served in the “elite counter-terrorism unit Joint Special Operations Command.” He then left the military as a conscientious objector, according to Fox News:
National Archives records confirm Robertson’s service from May 16, 1986 to May 1994, in the U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company as a field radio operator, but records indicate he was released from active duty in March 1990, discharged in the rank of corporal with training in radiotelegraph, scuba diving, marksmanship, parachuting, terrorism counteraction, surveillance, infantry patrolling and finance.
He later became the leader, known as “Ali Baba,” of a notorious New York gang “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” says Fox News. The gang robbed more than 10 banks, private homes and post offices at gunpoint, shot three police officers, and attacked one cop after he was injured by a homemade pipe bomb, reports Fox News.
He and other members of the gang were arrested in 1991. However, prosecutors cut a deal with Robertson; he only had to serve four years in prison but had to work undercover for the FBI between 2004 and 2007 to document terrorists’ plans and networks in Africa, Egypt and the United States, says Fox News.
However, Robertson was dismissed from this “program” February 8, 2007 after he attacked his CIA handler in Africa,” according to Fox News.
2. Robertson Is a Muslim Extremist & Runs an Islamic School
Robertson is the founder of the Orlando-based Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary, recently renamed Timbuktu Seminary, the highest level of which focuses of the “lifelong process of purifying one’s soul,” according to the institution’s website. It was opened in 2008, and Robertson then took his Muslim name, Abu Taubah, according to Fox News. It is an online school and Robertson teaches the courses.
Robertson has traveled the world teaching about Islamic religion, teaching at universities, some in the United States. Videos of his lessons show him preaching against gays, or “devil worshipers” as he calls them, non-Muslims and American pop culture icons like SpongeBob SquarePants, who he says is “gay,” reports Fox News.
Robertson, who was born in Brooklyn, obeyed Islamic law and married two women, Zulaika and Itisha Wills. Between them and women outside of his marriage, Robertson has 15 children. Through his teachings, videos and social media, he has an estimated 150 followers, says Fox News, building an extensive network in Florida and New York. All of these people are a concern for federal law enforcement.
3. He Has Ties to the 1993 Bombing of the World Trade Center
Robertson was a bodyguard to Omar Abdel Rahman, nicknamed the “Blind Sheik.” He is the blind Egyptian Muslim leader currently serving a life sentence. Rahman was part of the extremist Islamic group accused of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, says Fox News. The former New York City resident was convicted of seditious conspiracy.
However, Robertson denies involvement.
4. He Was Recently Released From Prison
Recently, Robertson spent four years in prison in Florida for firearms charges and tax-fraud, says Fox News. According to reports obtained by Fox News, he lied on tax forms about paying to send an associate to Mauritania for terror training.
As his sentence was ending, federal prosecutors tried to add 10 more years based on enhanced terrorism charges, but U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell decided to let him go in 2015.
According to Fox News, Robertson has a lot of influence on fellow inmates:
While in the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County, Robertson was considered so dangerous, he was kept in shackles and assigned his own guards…Whenever he was transported to court, a seven-car Caravan of armed federal marshals escorted him. He was initially moved into solitary confinement after prison authorities believed he was radicalizing up to 36 of his fellow prisoners.
However, Robertson had denied being involved with terrorist activities, in court, in postings on social media and in statements from his attorney to Fox News.
5. Omar Mateen Took Lessons From Robertson
Most importantly, Mateen was tied to and influenced by Robertson. Fox News reports that Mateen was enrolled in Robertson’s Islamic seminary; “It is no coincidence that this happened in Orlando,” a law-enforcement source told Fox.
Robertson, who was living in Florida, and other associates, were brought in for questioning on Sunday. However, he is denying any involvement and that Mateen was a student of his.
Robertson warns, “As for those guys who think they’re gonna bully us, you better think again…we’re not to be bullied.”