FBI Says It Presumes Base Shooting Was Act Of Terrorism

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This undated photo provided by the FBI shows Mohammed Alshamrani. The Saudi student opened fire inside a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday before one of the deputies killed him. (FBI via AP)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — The Saudi gunman who killed three people at the Pensacola naval base had apparently gone on Twitter shortly before the shooting to blast U.S. support of Israel and accuse America of being anti-Muslim, a U.S. official said Sunday as the FBI confirmed it is operating on the assumption the attack was an act of terrorism.

Investigators are also working to establish whether the killer, identified as 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, of the Royal Saudi Air Force, acted alone. Alshamrani, who was killed in the attack at a classroom building Friday, was undergoing flight training at Pensacola, where members of foreign militaries routinely receive instruction.

“We are, as we do in most active-shooter investigations, work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism,” said Rachel L. Rojas, FBI agent in charge.

Authorities believe the gunman made social media posts criticizing the U.S. under a user handle similar to his name, but federal law enforcement officials are investigating whether he authored the words or just posted them, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Also, investigators believe the gunman visited New York City, including Rockefeller Center, days before the shooting and are working to determine the purpose of the trip, the official said.

All international students at the Pensacola base have been accounted for, there have been no arrests, and the community is under no immediate threat, Rojas said at a news conference. A Saudi commanding officer has ordered all students from the country to remain at one location at the base, authorities said.

“There are a number of Saudi students who are close to the shooter and continue to cooperate in this investigation,” Rojas said. “The Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation.”

Earlier in the week of the shooting, Alshamrani hosted a dinner party where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, another U.S. official told the AP on Saturday.

Alshamrani wounded two sheriff’s deputies, one in the arm and one in the knee, before one of them killed him. Eight others were also hurt. Both deputies were expected to survive.

Alshamrani used a Glock 9 mm weapon that had been purchased legally in Florida, Rojas said.

Family members and others identified the three dead as Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida, who joined the Navy after graduating from high school last year; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia.

The official who spoke Saturday said one of the three students who attended the dinner party hosted by the attacker recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting was taking place. Two other Saudi students watched from a car, the official said.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said on CBS’ “”Face the Nation” that the shooting looked like “terrorism or akin to terrorism.” But he cautioned that the FBI was still investigating.

“Look, to me it appears to be a terrorist attack,” he said. “I don’t want prejudge the investigation, but it appears that this may be someone that was radicalized.” O’Brien said he did not see evidence so far of a “broader plot.”

The U.S. has long had a robust training program for Saudis, providing assistance in the U.S. and in the kingdom. More than 850 Saudis are in the United States for various training activities. They are among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries in the U.S. going through military training.

“This has been done for many decades,” Trump said on Saturday. “I guess we’re going to have to look into the whole procedure. We’ll start that immediately.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The USA has continuously (going back decades), licks the boots of the Saudis. In 1996, 19 U.S. Air Force personnel were killed in Saudi Arabia, during the bombing of the Khobar Towers. The Saudis at that time, although they made a few arrests, never extradited the prisoners to the USA, and also dragged their feet during the investigation.
    They never even revealed what punishment, if any, was given to the few terrorists, whom they apprehended. I had to laugh when the Special FBI Agent in charge (Rojas), stated that “she hopes for full cooperation from the Saudis”. They will give us the same “cooperation”, as they’ve done with the 15 Saudi 9/11 hijackers, and the Khobar Towers bombing.

    • We are at war. Leaving Saudi Arabia would be what the Bad Guys want us to do. That would let them win. Being here and changing their society is how we win.

      I am surprised it has to be explained.

      • Hey Paul-How do you change society, in an area, where they consider all Westerners as infidels, and where women need permission of a relative to run errands? Get real, will you!

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