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Terrorism 'not ruled out' in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting investigation

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By Euronews
Terrorism 'not ruled out' in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting investigation

Investigators are pursuing all angles to determine why suspect Esteban Santiago opened fire in the baggage claim area of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale airport, killing five people and wounding eight others.

The FBI said terrorism has not been ruled out, but family members say the Iraq war veteran had a history of mental health issues.

“We will be pursuing every angle to try to determine the motive behind this attack,“ special agent in charge of FBI’s Miami Office George Piro said. He added that they were reviewing the suspect’s recent movements.

The authorities said they had taken Santiago into custody at Broward County Sheriff’s following the shooting. He was booked and jailed on suspicion of murder early on Saturday, and investigators questioned him at length.

Who is the suspect

A private first class and combat engineer Santiago (26), served from 2007 to 2016 in the Puerto Rico National Guard and Alaska National Guard, including a deployment to Iraq from 2010-2011.

He received half a dozen medals before being transferred to inactive ready reserve in August 2016.

According to his aunt, quoted on MSNBC, he returned from Iraq ‘a different person’.

The FBI said he had turned up at their office in Anchorage in November last year behaving erratically and was turned over to local police. They then took him to a medical facility for a mental health evaluation.

What happened

The suspected shooter took a flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Fort Lauderdale, with a handgun in his checked luggage. After retrieving his bag, witnesses said he began firing indiscriminately before running out of ammunition.

“This was a tough day for our state,” Florida Governor Rick Scott told reporters. “Clearly a senseless, evil act happened, where according to law enforcement five individuals have lost their lives and we know there are still people fighting for their life. The… What’s important to me is that we will never tolerate things like this in our state. Whoever’s responsible, we’ll do everything we can to hold them accountable”.

It is the latest in a string of mass shootings in the US, one of the deadliest took place last June when a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.