VIGILS have been held in Scotland to pay tribute to the 49 people shot dead in an Orlando nightlub, as public buildings flew the rainbow flag at half mast in tribute.
As the world came to terms with the tragedy in the US, hundreds of people gathered in Glasgow’s George Square in silent reflection. Another tribute will be held in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square tomorrow.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted earlier in the day: “The #Pride flag will fly at half mast over @scotgov HQ today in memory of those whose lives were taken in #Orlando. #lovewins”. She later tweeted a photo of the tribute.
It came as police revealed details of the “cool and calm” phone calls made to officers by gunman Omar Mateen as he held hostages inside the Florida nightclub, which was the scene of the worst gun attack in US history.
US authorities said the attacker phoned emergency number 911 to pledge alliegance to terror group Islamic State and also mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers in his calls.
The gunman was killed after he crawled out through a hole made in the building of the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse by an armoured police vehicle trying to rescue hostages – and engaged in a gun battle with armed officers.
Chilling details of the attack came as it emerged 48 of the 49 victims of the incident had last night been formally identified. Five of the 53 being treated in hospital are “critical”. Orlando police Chief John Mina said negotiators had tried to reason with Mateen, 29, during the phone calls he made from the club’s toilet, where he had retreated with a group of hostages.
“He was cool and calm when he was making those phone calls to us,” Mina said.
“We had a team of crisis negotiators that did talk to the suspect, just trying to get as much information as possible. He really wasn’t asking for a whole lot.”
After a three-hour stand-off, the suspect eventually emerged from the club and was shot dead by armed police. Officers had initially held off from entering the club because Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent, had suggested he was wearing an explosive vest.
Thirty-nine of the dead were killed at the club, and the others died at hospitals. Last night President Barack Obama said there was no clear evidence the gunman was directed by IS.
Mr Obama added: “This is an example of the kind of home-grown extremism all of us have been concerned about for a very long time.”