Pen­sacola shoot­ing called act of ter­ror­ism

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin John­son and Kris­tine Phillips Con­tribut­ing: Ryan Mills, Pen­sacola News Jour­nal

Navy base at­tack was mo­ti­vated by “ji­hadist ide­ol­ogy,” Barr says

WASH­ING­TON – A shoot­ing by a Saudi pi­lot on a Navy base in Pen­sacola, Florida, in De­cem­ber was an act of ter­ror­ism mo­ti­vated by “ji­hadist ide­ol­ogy,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr said Mon­day.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s find­ings were an­nounced about a month af­ter the Saudi pi­lot, 2nd Lt. Mo­hammed Al­sham­rani, fired on ser­vice mem­bers at Naval Air Sta­tion Pen­sacola.

The 21- year- old shooter, who was part of a U. S. train­ing pro­gram for the Saudi mil­i­tary, was killed in the ram­page Dec. 6 that also killed three Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers and in­jured eight oth­ers.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found that on Sept. 11 last year, the shooter posted on so­cial me­dia that “the count­down has be­gun.” He vis­ited the 9/ 11 Me­mo­rial in New York City over Thanks­giv­ing week­end, and he posted “anti- Amer­i­can, anti- Is­raeli and ji­hadi mes­sages” on so­cial me­dia two hours be­fore the at­tack, Barr said.

Days af­ter the at­tack, the Navy grounded more than 300 Saudi na­tion­als who were train­ing to be pi­lots. Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary David Norquist or­dered De­fense in­tel­li­gence officials to re­view and strengthen vet­ting pro­ce­dures.

Al­sham­rani be­gan his three- year course in Au­gust 2017 with English, ba­sic avi­a­tion and ini­tial pi­lot train­ing.

He was one of 5,180 for­eign stu­dents, in­clud­ing 852 Saudi na­tion­als, from 153 coun­tries in the USA for mil­i­tary train­ing. Many op­er­ate U. S. mil­i­tary hard­ware that for­eign gov­ern­ments buy from the United States. Saudi Ara­bia is the world’s largest cus­tomer for arms, and many of those are Amer­i­can- made.

FBI Deputy Di­rec­tor David Bowdich said Mon­day there was “no in­di­ca­tion” that oth­ers were in­volved in the at­tack. While no sin­gle ide­ol­ogy is be­lieved to have mo­ti­vated the as­sault, Bowdich said the shooter posted mes­sages echo­ing the teach­ings of al- Qaida cleric An­war al- Awlaki.

The Amer­i­can- born al- Awlaki was killed by an Amer­i­can drone strike in 2011. Pros­e­cu­tors have found that sus­pects in sev­eral ter­ror in­ves­ti­ga­tions drew in­spi­ra­tion from the cleric.

OWEN/ AP CLIFF OWEN/ AP CLIFF

The re­mains of En­sign Joshua Kaleb Wat­son, fa­tally shot at the Naval Air Sta­tion Pen­sacola in Florida, are trans­ferred at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Dec. 8.

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