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Indian-origin ex-Marine saved dozens during Orlando night club massacre

world Updated: Jun 17, 2016 11:41 IST
Orlando shooting

Memorials have dotted Orlando and major US cities after 49 people were killed in a mass shooting on June 12, the second worst attack on American soil after 9/11.(AFP Photo)

A former US Marine sergeant who now works as a bouncer, is being hailed as a hero for his quick action that saved many lives at the Pulse club where a man opened fire and killed 49 people.

Imran Yousuf was on duty that fatal night of June 12 when Omar Mateen struck, an American of Afghan descent who pledged allegiance to the terrorist group, Islamic State.

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On hearing the gun shots , Yousuf immediately sprung to action and opened the backdoor through which many people managed to escape.

The ex-serviceman of Indian origin has had military experience fighting in Afghanistan.

Read | Obama meets nightclub massacre survivors, victims’ relatives in Orlando

Speaking to CBS News, he said that when the first gun shots went off, he screamed to those at the back of the club to open the door. However, panic and fear had frozen most everyone and no one moved.

“There was only one choice. Either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance, and I jumped over to open that latch… We got everyone that we can out of there,” he said.

Yousuf could’ve easily drawn Mateen’s attention to himself when he went to open the door, risking his life. But, because of him, close to 70 people escaped the line of fire.

The network reported that Yousuf cried as he said, “I wish I could have saved more to be honest. There are a lot of people that are dead.”

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Given his formal military training, Yousuf has since brushed off the praises coming his way.

Marine Corps Times newspaper reported that Yousuf posted on his Facebook page: “There are a lot of people naming me a hero and as a former Marine and Afghan veteran I honestly believe I reacted by instinct. ... While it might seem that my actions are heroic I decided that the others around me needed to be saved as well and so I just reacted.”

According to the paper, he had left the Marine Corps only last month. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal during his service.

Yousuf was initially identified as Hindu by CBS News, causing some confusion over his identity.

However, in an interview with a California-based newspaper, his uncle clarified that Yousuf’s mother and paternal grandmother are Hindus and he identifies with their religion. His family emigrated from Guyana, where his ancestors had gone from India.

The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, New York, reported that he grew up in the nearby town of Niskayuna and joined the Marine Corps after he finished high school at the age of 17 and served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.