Wife of Orlando mass murderer denies advance knowledge of attack

November 1, 2016 8:14 PM EDT

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By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - The wife of the gunman who shot 49 people to death at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, knew he had been watching jihadist videos but was unaware he planned to commit mass murder, she said in a New York Times interview published on Tuesday.

Noor Salman, in her first extensive public comments since the June 12 shooting rampage that ended with police killing her husband, Omar Mateen, also said he physically abused her during their five-year marriage, even while she was pregnant.

U.S. investigators questioned Salman within days of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A law enforcement source at the time told Reuters that Salman knew of Mateen's plans for the attack, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Media reports in June indicated Salman faced imminent arrest in the investigation, but no charges have been brought against her.

"I was unaware of everything," Salman, 30, told the New York Times in the interview. "I don't condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened." (http://nyti.ms/2exEbEd)

She and Mateen, then 29, lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, until the shooting. She and her young son have since relocated three times. She said she often cannot get out of bed and depends on family to care for her son.

"I just want people to know that I am human," Salman told the paper. "I am a mother."

In emergency-911 calls placed by Mateen in the midst of the shooting spree, he professed allegiance to the head of Islamic State, the militant group that has seized vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and claimed responsibility for numerous bomb and gun attacks on civilians in Europe.

An FBI spokeswoman on Tuesday said in a statement, "We have never said whether we are investigating any other individuals in connection with the shooting."

Salman, a native of California, acknowledged that she was aware that Mateen, the U.S.-born son of immigrants from Afghanistan, was watching jihadist videos before the attack, according to the New York Times.

The FBI, after questioning Mateen in 2013 and 2014 for suspected ties to Islamist militants, concluded he did not pose a threat. Salman told the New York Times she was not particularly alarmed about Mateen watching the videos because the FBI appeared to have cleared him.

Salman also told the newspaper that she was the victim of repeated domestic violence at the hands her husband, who she said choked her, pulled her by the hair and threatened to kill her.

Once when she was pregnant, he punched her hard enough on the shoulder to leave a bruise, and later threatened to seize custody of their son if she divorced him, Salman said. According to her account, Mateen taunted her by saying she would never be able to prove his abuse of her.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Julia Harte in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)



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