FBI says the Pensacola base shooting is ‘presumed’ to be a TERROR attack as Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirms two Saudi nationals filmed the attack that left three dead at the hands of radicalized gunman
- Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas revealed Sunday that investigators have not yet been able to determine shooter Mohammed Alshamrani’s motive
- The Naval base shooting left three dead and eight injured on Friday
- Alshamrani, 21, also died following a gun fire battle with police
- Investigators believe the Saudi gunman visited New York City, including the Rockefeller Center, just days before the shooting
- Authorities also believe the gunman made social media posts in which he talked about U.S. support for Israel and charged that Americans are anti-Muslim
- Days before the shooting, Alshamrani hosted a dinner party for himself and three other Saudi trainees where they all watched videos of mass shootings
- Investigators noted that one of the three students recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting was taking place
- Ten Saudi students were being held on the base Saturday as part of the investigation, the official said, however no arrests have yet been made
The FBI has revealed that the deadly mass shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola will be investigated as a potential act of terrorism as authorities explore whether the gunman’s sickening actions were spurred by a radical ideology.
Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas revealed Sunday that investigators have not yet been able to determine the motive behind Mohammed Alshamrani’s ambush in Florida on Friday, which left three dead.
Alshamrani, 21, also died at the scene and eight others were wounded but all are expected to recover.
Investigators say the gunman visited New York City – including the Rockefeller Center – with three other Saudi trainees just days before the shooting and are working to determine the purpose of the trip.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed Sunday that ‘one or two’ of the Saudi trainees were filming the shooting as Alshamrani carried it out, though for now it remains unclear why.
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, killed three and wounded 12 others in the attack before he was shot dead by police. This picture was released by the FBI on Saturday evening
Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas revealed Sunday that investigators have not yet been able to determine shooter Mohammed Alshamrani’s motive for Friday’s ambush in Florida
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (pictured right with President Trump) confirmed Sunday that ‘one or two’ of the Saudi trainees were filming the shooting as Alshamrani carried it out, though for now it remains unclear why
Authorities also believe the shooter authored a series of social media posts in which he talked about U.S. support for Israel and scolded Americans for being anti-Muslim.
‘I can tell you that we are looking very hard at uncovering his motive and I would ask for patience so we can get this right,’ Rojas said in a press conference.
ALSHAMRANI’S DISTURBING TWITTER ACCOUNT AND HIS PRE-SHOOTING ‘MANIFESTO’
The now-deactivated Twitter account purportedly belonging to Alshamrani included:
– A variety of anti-Israel postings and a quote from deceased al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden
– A lengthy manifesto posted at 4:39am Friday, less than two hours the shooting. The manifesto read in part:
‘I’m against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.
‘I’m not against you for just being American, I don’t hate you because [of] your freedoms, I hate you because every day you [are] supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims, but also humanity….
‘As we speak, members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and Counterterrorism Division are working tirelessly to discern any possible ideology that may have been a factor in this attack.’
The FBI and others are trying to establish whether the attack was an act of terrorism and whether Alshamrani acted alone.
Alshamrani was a flight student at Pensacola, where members of foreign militaries are routinely trained by the U.S.
Using a Glock 9mm handgun he’d purchased by exploiting a legal loophole, Alshamrani opened fire in a classroom at the Florida base on Friday morning, killing Airman Mohammed Sameh Hathaim, 19, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21.
Eight others, including two deputies, were wounded in a gunfight with Alshamrani, who was later shot dead by police.
Days before the gunfire erupted, Alshamrani hosted a dinner party for himself and three other Saudi trainees where they all watched videos of mass shootings together.
Mark Esper said that at least one of the three students recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting was taking place, while the others watched on nearby from a car.
FBI agents are also trying to determine the purpose of the group’s visit to New York, along with the gunman, and are attempting to locate and question anyone who they may have met with in during their time in the city.
US Naval Academy graduate, Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, (left) and military student Mohammed Haitham, 19, (right) have been identified as two of the victims of Friday’s shooting
Naval apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, was named as the third victim
The FBI Evidence Response Team is pictured continuing their methodical search for clues at the base on Saturday. FBI terrorism investigators have been also been investigating, according to reports
Naval Air Station Pensacola will remain closed until further notice, officials said Saturday. The building where the shooting took place is pictured
In the hours leading up to the attack, the shooter appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars in the Middle East to social media, saying he hated Americans for ‘committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity’ and for the country’s support of Israel.
He also posted a quote from assassinated al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to SITE Intelligence Group. The shooter’s Twitter account was taken down subsequent to the attack.
The U.S. has sought the assistance of Saudi officials as they try to piece together information about the gunman and whether his heinous actions were spurred by an ‘ideology’.
Ten Saudi students were being held on the base Saturday as part of the investigation, the official said, however no arrests have yet been made.
Alshamrani was a second lieutenant attending the aviation school at Navy Station Pensacola. The Pentagon say his training with the US military began in August 2016, and was due to finish in August 2020.
One of Alshamrani’s uncles told CNN on Saturday that he was shocked by the attack, as his nephew was ‘likable and mannered towards his family and the community’.
‘He had his religion, his prayer, his honesty and commitments’, the uncle stated.
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that Alshamrani used a handgun in the shooting, which he purchased from a dealer in Pensacola.
Non-citizens are prohibited from purchasing guns in the United States, unless they are equipped with a hunting license.
According to NBC, Alshamrani was equipped with such a license.
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was a Saudi aviator training at the U.S. naval station
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suggested Saudi Arabia should offer compensation to the victims
The gun has been described as a Glock 45 9-millimeter handgun with an extended magazine.
Alshamrani allegedly had four to six other magazines in his possession at the time of his shooting.
Elsewhere, the FBI is examining social media posts and investigating whether Alshamrani acted alone or was connected to any broader group.
On Friday evening, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist media, claimed they had tracked a Twitter account belonging to Alshamrani which featured a disturbing manifesto written just hours before the shooting.
Investigators are working to determine if it was in fact written by the shooter
President Donald Trump declined to say whether the shooting was terrorism-related but said Saturday that he would review policies governing foreign military training in the U.S.
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. ‘I guess we’re going to have to look into the whole procedure. We’ll start that immediately.’
SAUDI ARABIA’S TERROR LINK
15 of the 19 men associated with the al-Qaeda 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens. A number of them received their aviation training at bases in the US.
al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, hailed from a prominent Saudi family.
The US investigated some Saudi diplomats and others with Saudi government ties who knew hijackers after they arrived in the US, according to documents that have been declassified.
The Saudi government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attacks.
The 9/11 Commission report found ‘no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded’ the attacks that al-Qaeda masterminded, but the commission also noted ‘the likelihood’ that Saudi government-sponsored charities did.
In 2017, families of 800 victims and 1,500 first responders file a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia accusing the country’s officials of aiding hijackers in 9/11 attacks. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Saudi Arabia is the richest and geographically largest Middle Eastern country – and a key US ally.
According to the State Department, Saudi Arabia is the second leading source of imported oil for the United States, providing just under one million barrels per day of oil to the US market
Saudi money is also widely invested in the US, with billions of private cash invested on Wall Street and beyond.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the ruling al-Saud family, has stakes in a huge range of big businesses including Citigroup, 21st Century Fox, and the Plaza Hotel in New York.
Many the country’s citizens also come to study at US colleges, with Saudis the fourth-largest source of foreign students, trailing only China, India and South Korea, according to The New York Times.
The US has long had a robust training program for Saudis, with 852 Saudi nationals currently in the country training under the Pentagon’s security cooperation agreement.
Saudi Arabia was not one of the seven countries included in President Trump’s 2017 ‘travel ban’
The shooting marks a setback in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to shrug off its longstanding reputation for promoting religious extremism after the September 11, 2001 attacks in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
The hashtag ‘Saudis stand with America’ gained traction on social media after King Salman telephoned President Donald Trump to denounce the shooting as ‘heinous’ and pledge cooperation with American officials to investigate the incident.
The king added in the phone call on Friday that the shooter, who was gunned down by police, ‘does not represent the Saudi people’.
The family of the shooter echoed the same sentiment, with pro-government Okaz newspaper quoted one of his uncles, Saad al-Shamrani, as saying that his actions do not reflect the ‘humanity and loyalty of his family’ to the kingdom’s leadership.
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