New developments on the Orlando shooter have put ISIS in a potentially awkward position

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Witnesses Say the Orlando Shooter Had Been to Pulse Nightclub Before

Multiple news outlets reported on Monday that the gunman who carried out the Orlando terrorist attack frequented the LGBTQ nightclub where he killed at least 49 people.

He also used multiple gay-dating apps, according to several people who had communicated with him on the apps.

And one of his former classmates told The Palm Beach Post that he believed Mateen was gay — something federal investigators are now reportedly looking into — and that Mateen once asked him out romantically.

SEE ALSO: Wife reportedly tried to talk shooter out of Orlando attack

The new developments about 29-year-old Mateen complicate his likely motives and his pledge of allegiance to ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — the terrorist group that has been known to throw gay people off of rooftops.

But ISIS might have a ready-made justification for claiming Mateen as a "soldier of the caliphate" despite the fact that homosexuality goes against the strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law the group brutally imposes.

"IS' murderous hatred for homosexuals is well-known, so it might be expected that if it turns out that Mateen was a homosexual this would put them in something of a bind, but in fact IS has a rather easy theological get-out clause," Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst and fellow with the Henry Jackson Society, a UK-based foreign-policy think tank, told Business Insider in an email.

He said:

IS can situate this squarely within their ideological program of repentance and deliverance. When IS has murdered homosexuals within the caliphate, it has distributed media of its fighters hugging the condemned men, the message being: IS bears no personal animus, it is simply enforcing god's will — punishment being a 'corrective' and an act of mercy since it allows atonement. With Mateen, therefore, IS can claim to have wrested him from sin and pulled him into the light.

Orton noted that ISIS's "repentance factor" goes back to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS's predecessor. The Jordan native had "a fondness for alcohol, drugs, and tattoos" and a criminal background before he started the terrorist group that was so bloodthirsty that it was disowned by Al Qaeda, according to Orton.

Zarqawi "felt that by correcting his own practice of his religion, and forcibly correcting others, he was doing God's work," Orton said.

And Sunni tribes that fought against Al Qaeda in Iraq during the US war there were allowed to "repent" to avoid slaughter when ISIS seized territory in Iraq.

Orton said:

The profile of former petty criminal who gets religion, repents his former life, and joins the caliphate is now so common as to be cliché, especially among the Western foreign fighters. IS can easily assimilate a homosexual — regarded by them in any case as something someone does, rather than something someone is — who sees the error of his ways and joins their cause.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on terrorist groups, made a similar assessment. He noted that ISIS could possibly hide the news of Mateen patronizing the LGBTQ club and using gay-dating apps from those in its core territory in the Middle East. It still maintains control of the internet in towns it rules.

"I don't think it will be a problem in the countries where ISIS mainly operates because the news probably won't get through and ISIS can easily deflect," Joscelyn told Business Insider in an email. "In its propaganda aim at the West, it can also deflect in a number of ways, including saying he redeemed himself from his 'sinful' past."

Still, the new information about Mateen — who was married with a child — could complicate ISIS's image as a group of pious ideologues. And Mateen terrorizing a nightclub that he used to frequent suggests underlying motives that have nothing to do with radical Islam.

One man told MSNBC that he blocked Mateen on a gay-dating app and described his messages as "creepy."

The classmate who told The Palm Beach Post that he thought Mateen was gay also described him as "awkward."

"He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him," he told the Post. "He was always socially awkward."

See some of the tributes and vigils to the victims of the shooting:

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Orlando massacre vigils and tributes around the World
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Orlando massacre vigils and tributes around the World
People gather in front of the US Embassy in Copenhagen to remember the victims at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando Florida on June 13, 2016. / AFP / Scanpix / Jens Astrup / Denmark OUT (Photo credit should read JENS ASTRUP/AFP/Getty Images)
April Ross looks at a makeshift memorial outside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the mass shooting victims at the Pulse nightclub June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The American gunman who launched a murderous assault on a gay nightclub in Orlando was radicalized by Islamist propaganda, officials said Monday, as they grappled with the worst terror attack on US soil since 9/11. The Islamic State group claimed slain shooter Omar Mateen was acting as 'one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America' when he attacked the Pulse club in the Florida resort city, an assault that ended when police stormed the venue. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People lay flowers and light candles to commemorate victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in front of the US embassy in Warsaw on June 13, 2016. / AFP / AFP PHOTO / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People commemorate victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in front of the US embassy in Warsaw on June 13, 2016. / AFP / AFP PHOTO / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 13, 2016: Placards and flowers brought at the US Embassy in Moscow to pay tribute to the Orlando nightclub shooting victims. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS (Photo by Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 13: Flowers are placed on a rainbow flag to remember victims of the shooting at an Orlando nightclub on June 13, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. Omar Mateen, who had recently pledged allegiance to ISIS, died after killing 49 people early morning on June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
People hold candles as they share a minute of silence during a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting in Florida, in Hong Kong on June 13, 2016. Law enforcement authorities have lowered the death toll from the weekend massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando to 49, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, explaining that the shooter had been counted in the original tally. / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - JUNE 13: People hold a rainbow flag during a vigil for the attack at the gay club in Orlando, on Monday, June 13, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images)
Australians gather to place candles and flags in Sydney on June 13, 2016, in solidarity with the global gay community after a gunman opened fire in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing over 50 people. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit with the colours of the rainbow on June 13 as hundreds of Australians gathered to stand in solidarity with the global gay community after the worst mass shooting in modern US history. / AFP / WILLIAM WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 13: Members of the public look on during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, at Frank Kitts Park on June 13, 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand. Omar Mateen allegedly killed more than 50 people and injured 53 others in what is the deadliest mass shootings in the country's history. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Josh Mercer wears a T-shirt Monday, June 13, 2016, in honor of two of his friends who were killed during a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
People gather for a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando, from San Diego, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Mourners gather under a LGBT pride flag flying at half-mast for a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando, from San Diego, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A rainbow flag is held up during a vigil after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Men stand together during a vigil after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People hold a vigil after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A rainbow flag is held up with the name of the gay nightclub where the worst mass shooting in U.S. history occured in Orlando,Florida, during a vigil in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies are seen behind a girl riding in a bus at the 46th annual Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California, after a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/David McNew
People pay their respects to the Orlando massacre victims during a vigil in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Two women hold each other at a vigil outside The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, considered by some as the center of New York State's gay rights movement, following the shooting massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
A man carries a gay pride flag at a vigil outside The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, considered by some as the center of New York State's gay rights movement, following the shooting massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
A man lays flowers at a memorial outside The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, considered by some as the center of New York State's gay rights movement, following the shooting massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
People take part in a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S., in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Orlando residents Arissa Suarez (L) and Malcom Crawson attend a vigil at Lake Eola Park for victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
A Boston Police Officer stands behind flowers left at a Pride Month block party, the same day as the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
People attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Orlando attack against a gay night club, held in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
People march down Market Street during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Orlando attack against a gay night club, held in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
People hold up signs in solidarity at a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando, from San Diego, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando is held in San Diego, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A rainbow flag is held up during a vigil after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A couple puts their arms around each other outside the White House where the U.S. flag flies at half-staff at sundown as people gather for a vigil on Pennsylvania Avenue later in the day of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in Washington June 12, 2016. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 13: The Michael Fowler Centre is lit up in the colours of the rainbow flag after a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, at Frank Kitts Park on June 13, 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand. Omar Mateen allegedly killed more than 50 people and injured 53 others in what is the deadliest mass shootings in the country's history. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 12: Candles sit on the edge of Lake Eola, June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The shooting at Pulse Nightclub, which killed 50 people and injured 53, is the worst mass-shooting event in American history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Brett Morian, from Daytona Beach, hugs an attendee during the candlelight vigil at Ember in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, June 12, 2016. (Joshua Lim/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People sit by the water with candles during a vigil in a park following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Flags fly at half-staff around the Washington Monument at daybreak in Washington with the US Capitol in the background Monday, June 13, 2016. President Barack Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings. (AP Photo/J. David Ake.)
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Some of the people closest to Mateen have hinted at psychological issues. A woman who was married to him claimed that he abused her, and acquaintances of his remembered him as angry and aggressive. His father has also been criticized for his comments after the shooting, suggesting that it was up to God, not his son, to punish gay people.

Experts also have doubts that Mateen was ever in contact with ISIS leadership.

Several of the terrorists who carried out the Paris attacks last year and the Brussels attacks earlier this year had trained in Syria and worked with high-level ISIS operatives to formulate their European terrorist cells. Mateen, however, was likely radicalized online, according to US officials.

That type of radicalization plays into ISIS's strategy of encouraging supporters in the West to carry out attacks inspired by the group's messaging. But it also carries the risk of claiming attacks before the group knows many details about the people who carried them out.

"I don't find it surprising that Mateen may have been gay," Joscelyn said. "If true, I think it does complicate the Islamic State's claim. The organization openly flaunts its hatred for homosexuals."

Even so, Joscelyn said that he "wouldn't be shocked if Mateen was both sexually repressed and attracted to jihadi ideas."

"Humans, even those attracted to jihadism, are filled with logical contradictions," he said. "There are multiple possibilities here."

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SEE ALSO: ISIS's new statement on the Orlando terrorist attack indicates a 'key element' of its strategy

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