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EXCLUSIVE: Top Gazan Jihadist Claims Orlando Shooter Was Terror Group Member

TEL AVIV – A top Islamic State-tied jihadist in the Gaza Strip claimed in an interview on Sunday that he “knows” that Omar Mateen, the Orlando club shooter, was a member of a terrorist organization.

Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, a Salafist movement senior official in the Gaza Strip, claimed he was told that Mateen was a member of one of the groups that fall under the jihadiya Salafiya franchise, meaning the network of loosely-based Salafist jihadist groups such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and the Al Nusra Front.

Ansari made the claim in a pre-recorded interview to air in full tonight on this reporter’s radio talk show, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” broadcast on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and NewsTalk 990 AM in Philadelphia.  Ansari did not elaborate on how he obtained the purported information.

Ansari is a well-known Gaza Salafist jihadist allied with Islamic State ideology.

The following is a transcript of the relevant portion of the interview:

ANSARI: We are following of course the attack in the States and we are blessing this attack. And we are thanking this mujaheed, who carried out the attack. And we are praying and asking Allah to host him and to accept him in paradise as a shaheed (martyr).

We have from outside the Gaza Strip confirmation that the mujaheed who carried out the attack is a member of the jihadiya Salafiya. But whether he is a member of the Islamic State or another group this is not yet confirmed.

KLEIN: So you are saying that there is confirmation, to be clear, that he is a member of the jihadiya Salafiya, meaning of the jihadist Salafist franchise?

ANSARI: Yes, absolutely. We know that he belongs to the jihadiya Salafia. The hero, martyr, may Allah bless his soul. But to what organization in the jihadiya Salafiya we don’t know it yet.

During a press conference on Sunday, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson stated that U.S, law enforcement officials “believe that there is some link to Isis,” but he later walked back his remarks.

“Obviously he knew what he was doing,” Nelson said. “I asked the FBI if there was any connection to Isis. There appears to be. But they are naturally cautious and waiting throughout to see if this [the case] as the facts emerge. I have checked with intelligence staff, and they do believe that there is some link to Isis.”

“But I might say that is not official,” he added.

Nielson later clarified his comments, saying that some officials believe there is a tie to “radicalism,” but not specifically to the Islamic State.

The Daily Beast quoted a senior law enforcement source saying Mateen was a “known quantity” to the FBI, and that he came became a person of interest in 2013 and 2014.

Added the Daily Beast:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation at one point opened an investigation into Mateen but subsequently closed the case when it produced nothing that appeared to warrant further investigation.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

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