Pensacola shooting called act of terrorism
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 findings were announced about a month after the Saudi pilot, 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, fired 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 officials 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.
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.