A gunman opened fire Friday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport, a major tourist hub in Florida, killing five people and injuring eight, as panicked travelers fled for safety.
The suspect, identified by a local lawmaker as Esteban Santiago, was in custody and being questioned by the FBI and homicide detectives over the shooting that shut down the international airport and gateway to the Caribbean.
The incident occurred in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, as passengers collecting their luggage were interrupted by gunshots.
Witness John Schlicher told Fox News that as he picked up his first bag, "I heard the first shot. As I did, the person right next to me fell to the ground... It was very surreal."
The shooter "was holding a handgun. He was firing into the crowd. Everyone was standing there waiting for the luggage," he said.
Video showed passengers running for safety.
There was no immediate indication of a motive for the assault, in a country where gun violence is widespread due to the ready availability of firearms.
ABC News reported that the gunman had traveled from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale, with a stopover in Minnesota.
The suspect reportedly checked a gun inside his luggage, after declaring the weapon with airport authorities, CNN reported, citing law enforcement sources.
He was detained without law enforcement firing any shots, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters.
- 'Lone shooter' -
Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who gave the suspect's name, also said he was in possession of a military ID, whose authenticity has yet to be confirmed.
Asked whether terrorism was a possible motive, authorities told reporters at a press conference it was "too early" to tell.
CBS News quoted federal law enforcement as saying that a man by the same description had walked into an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska two months ago, and said the federal government had made him watch Islamic State group videos.
The FBI agents were so concerned that they took him to a mental hospital, CBS reported.
Mayor Barbara Sharief said earlier that the gunman appeared to have acted alone.
"He was a lone shooter, and we have no evidence at this time that he was acting with anyone else. He is in custody, and we are currently investigating," Sharief told CNN.
- Huddled in place -
Hours after the shooting, which occurred shortly before 1:00 pm (1800 GMT), many passengers were still huddled inside the airport, while awaiting the all-clear.
"The terminals are very full right now, our passengers are sheltered in place, we'll be working with law enforcement to actually get them released systemically," Mark Gale, the director of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport said.
Responding to reports that additional shots had been fired on airport property, Israel said that "no law enforcement at this time has confirmed there's been any gunshots other than what was fired at Terminal 2."
Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist hub and beach resort in the greater Miami area, and a main starting point for travel and cruises to the Caribbean.
"All services are temporarily suspended at #FLL. Please contact your air carrier about your flight information," the airport tweeted.
- 'Everybody started running' -
Passengers ran for safety when the shots broke out, while others clustered on the tarmac.
Ari Fleischer, a former White House spokesman who was at the scene, tweeted: "I'm at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running."
Cellphone video footage broadcast by local Fox television affiliate Channel 7 showed one person lying bloodied on the floor, and several others on their knees.
A passenger named as Peter Cruise said he believed that travelers on his plane were among the victims.
He said he and his family "were walking up the ramp and just passed the checking gate when all a sudden everybody started running."
"I grabbed the kids and took off running down the ramp. Told the flight attendant to let us off the tarmac, we ran to hide behind some luggage carts."
With the initial panic over, Cruise said he and around 600 fellow passengers were now inside the terminal but that no one was being allowed to leave.
"Everybody seems to be calm now except for kids," he said.
Governor Rick Scott rushed to the airport to be briefed on the shooting, as dozens of police and emergency vehicles converged on the scene.
President-elect Donald Trump said he had spoken with Scott, and was "monitoring the terrible situation in Florida."
"Thoughts and prayers for all. Stay safe!" he tweeted.
President Barack Obama has also been briefed on the developing situation.
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
© 2017 AFP