The Orlando nightclub shooter's father, who has voiced support for the Taliban in the past, showed up at a Hillary Clinton rally in Florida on Monday night in a prime seat directly behind the Democratic presidential nominee.
Seddique Mateen later told local WPTV News Channel 5 reporter Tory Dunnan that he came to the rally as a member of the Democratic Party and supporter of Clinton.
He said he wished his son, Omar Mateen, had joined the U.S. Army to fight ISIS rather than going to the Pulse nightclub on a killing spree that left 49 dead in the early morning hours of June 12.
Among those killed were Army Reserve Capt. Antonio Davon Brown and Spc. Angel Candelario-Padro, who served in the Puerto Rico National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. It has not yet been decided whether they will be eligible for the Purple Heart.
A Clinton campaign official said the candidate was unaware of Mateen's presence at the rally, which drew about 3,000 people in Kissimmee, Florida, about 20 miles from Orlando. "This individual wasn't invited as a guest, and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event," a Clinton campaign official told National Public Radio.
At the rally, Clinton condemned the shootings at the nightclub frequented by the gay community.
"I know how many people, family members, loved ones and friends are still grieving," Clinton said. "I want you to know that we will be with you. We can't ever let that kind of hatred and violence break the spirit, break the soul, of anyplace in America."
In the background from his seat near the front row, a smiling Seddique Mateen, wearing a red ballcap, could clearly be seen joining the crowd in applauding and cheering Clinton's remarks.
In a series of interviews after the shootings in June, Seddique Mateen, who emigrated from Afghanistan, said that he regularly attended Friday prayers with his son at a Florida mosque. He said his son was respectful and he was "not aware what motivated him to go into a gay club and kill" those at the scene.
In a statement, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the Orlando attack and praised "brother Omar Mateen, one of the soldiers of the Caliphate in America," although no solid evidence has yet emerged of a connection between Omar Mateen and ISIS.
On a satellite TV broadcast and in numerous Facebook postings, Seddique Mateen has at times appeared in a military uniform to voice support for the Afghan Taliban and express opposition to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
As he left the Clinton rally, Seddique Mateen told WPTV of the ongoing investigation into the Orlando shootings that, "We've been cooperating with the federal government, and that's about it."
He then broke off the interview before stopping later to show off a sign he made to support Clinton.
"Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," he said.
When asked about the shootings, Mateen said, "I spoke a lot about that and wish that my son joined the Army and fought ISIS. That would be much better."
Mateen said he saw nothing unusual about his showing up at the rally.
"It's a Democratic party, so everyone can join. Why should they be surprised? I love the United States, and I've been living here a long time," Mateen said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.