Wife of Orlando nightclub shooter, accused of aiding terrorism, is arrested near Oakland

The wife of the gunman who killed 49 patrons at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub last summer was arrested Monday near Oakland on suspicion of aiding and abetting terrorism and obstructing investigators, according to Orlando’s police chief.

Noor Zahi Salman, the wife of gunman Omar Mateen, will face federal charges filed in central Florida after making an initial court appearance in Oakland scheduled for Tuesday morning, federal prosecutors said in a brief message on Twitter.

The FBI had been examining whether Salman knew of her husband’s plans and questioned her extensively after the shooting. Officials said Salman had accompanied Mateen at least once to the nightclub where he later carried out the massacre and also drove with him to shop at a gun dealership, according to previous Times reports.

Documents laying out the government’s case against Salman were not immediately available.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that Salman was charged with “aiding her husband in the commission of the brutal attack on the Pulse nightclub.”

Mina added, “Today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”

U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch, in an appearance on MSNBC, declined to say much about Salman’s arrest, but said officials had been examining Mateen’s plans and investigating “who else knew about them, was anyone else involved, is there any other accountability that needs to be had here in this case.”

One of Salman’s attorneys, Linda Moreno, told the Associated Press that Salman didn’t have advance knowledge of the attack, adding, “We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person.”

Salman faces at least one federal charge that is usually used against suspects who either tamper with evidence or interfere with an investigation, according to Alameda County jail records, which said Salman was arrested at 8:13 a.m. in the East Bay suburb of Dublin.

Salman had previously denied any involvement in Mateen’s attack on the Pulse nightclub on June 12, during which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police during the attack.

A child of Palestinian immigrants, Salman was born and grew up in Northern California. She met Mateen on an online dating site and the pair were married in Contra Costa County in 2011. The pair had each been married before, and they had a son together not long after the wedding.

Salman, who moved multiple times since the shooting to avoid public scrutiny, had previously told the New York Times in an interview that Mateen was volatile and had often beat her and that he also watched jihadist videos.

Salman said she was at home in bed during the attack and that Mateen had texted her during the ensuing standoff with police to ask her whether she had seen what happened. “I love you, babe,” he added.

“I was unaware of everything,” Salman told the newspaper. “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.” 

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UPDATES:

5:20 p.m.: Updates throughout with comments from Mina, Lynch, Moreno; background, other details.

10:45 a.m.: This article has been updated with Times reporting.

This article was originally published at 9:35 a.m.

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