The United States Navy announced a “safety stand-down” and grounded more than 300 military aviation students from Saudi Arabia over the weekend after a Saudi Air Force lieutenant shot and killed three people, wounded two sheriff’s deputies, and injured eight other people. The atrocity took place in Florida on Friday, December 6, 2019, at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials are looking into whether 21-year-old Saudi Royal Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was part of a conspiratorial group or acted alone when he opened fire in Pensacola just before 7 AM inside a classroom. A deputy sheriff shot and killed the foreign aviator.
Speaking for the Navy, Lieutenant Andriana Genualdi said:
“A safety stand-down and operational pause commenced Monday for Saudi Arabian aviation students.”
The Saudi students are being restricted to the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Pensacola, as well as NAS Whiting Field and NAS Mayport. All three bases are located in Florida. Navy Commander Clay Doss revealed:
“There are approximately 140 Saudi Arabian students training at NAS Pensacola and 35 at NAS Whiting Field and 128 at NAS Mayport.”
Aviation classes resumed soon thereafter for students from other countries and Genualdi indicated that the Saudis will return to their classrooms as well.
On December 10, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist ordered Defense intelligence officials to review and strengthen vetting procedures.
Over the weekend, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called Saudi Arabia “a longstanding partner of ours in the region” and said the two countries “share mutual security interests.” Esper said he had directed an American armed forces review of both security at military bases and screening procedures for future foreign soldiers seeking training in the U.S.
Alshamrani was in Pensacola as part of a Navy training program crafted to strengthen ties with foreign allies. The Saudi officer had started his U.S. training in 2017, the past 18 months of it at the Pensacola NAS.
A review of Alshamrani’s online activity revealed that he seemed to post criticisms of U.S. wars in mostly-Muslim countries. Hours before he opened fire, he had tweeted his last will which included a quote from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed by former Navy SEAL Robert James O’Neill in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
Twitter removed a series of tweets from Alshamrani and suspended the Saudi’s account. Before that happened, the pro-Islamic murderer posted a message directed at the American people that expressed hatred for Americans due to their “crimes” against Muslims. Although the post did not mention an imminent attack on U.S. soil, Alshamrani did comment that “America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.”
That phrase is a direct quote from a message posted in March 2010 that called for a jihad (holy war) against the U.S. by American terrorist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a drone strike in September 2011. His sermons, available online, have served to inspire many Muslim militants who are plotting to topple democracy and kill or enslave all infidels (non-Muslims).
Days before the attack, Alshamrani held a dinner party for three other Saudis. The group watched videos of mass shootings.
During the Friday morning firestorm, one of the dinner party attendees recorded video outside the classroom. The two others observed from a car as Alshamrani discharged a semi-automatic 9mm Glock handgun that had been purchased legally. The shooter had brought several extra magazines to increase his firepower.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Reagan National Defense Forum in California that, even though the four Saudis met days before the fatal shooting spree and entertained themselves with footage of mass shootings, their motivation was unclear:
“No, I can’t say it’s terrorism at this time.”
Before he went ballistic, Alshamrani had tweeted:
“Do you expect to transgress against others and yet be spared retribution?”
Yesterday morning, national security adviser Robert O’Brien was interviewed on the CBS show “Face the Nation” and confirmed that official investigators were still unsure if Alshamrani was a small cog in a bigger wheel:
“We don’t know yet if he was acting alone. The FBI is investigating, and they’ve been interviewing, interrogating other Saudi students.”
However, O’Brien connected the same dots many other observers have and reached the same tentative conclusion, pending more fact-finding:
“To me, it appears to be a terrorist attack.”
FBI Special Agent Rachel Rojas is heading up the inquiry and said at a press conference that the FBI is using “investigative techniques” with “the presumption that this was an act on terrorism.” Rojas said the shooter’s motivation is under intense scrutiny:
“Members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division are working tirelessly to discern if any possible ideology that may have been a factor in this attack.”
Presently there are about 850 Saudi military students in the U.S. The Pentagon announced on December 12 that new international military students will be banned from entering the U.S. until new screening procedures with additional reviews have been implemented within the next few days.