Just Before Base Shooting, an Anti-US Rant on Twitter

Elias Hubbard
December 8, 2019

The killings have not been ruled terrorism, but tweets criticizing the U.S. were posted about two hours before the shootings at the naval base in Florida on Friday.

The Saudi gunman who killed three people at the Pensacola naval base had apparently gone on Twitter shortly before the shooting to blast USA support of Israel and accuse America of being anti-Muslim, a us official said Sunday as the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed it is operating on the assumption the attack was an act of terrorism. The FBI has not determined a motive for Alshamrani's rampage.

Rojas confirmed that "friends, classmates and other associates" of the killer have been pulled in for "interviews", but said it seemed that there was "one gunman and no arrests have been made in this case".

Still, the shooting raised uneasy parallels to the attacks of 11 September 2001, when numerous al-Qaeda-linked hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Centre, Pentagon and Pennsylvania countryside were Saudi citizens who had flight training in the US.

A U.S. official told the Associated Press on Saturday that Alshamrani hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings. Three of the Saudis were said to have taken cellphone video at the scene, according to a US official familiar with investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing probe. Eight others were also hurt.

Multiple Saudi students close to the gunman are cooperating with investigators as their Saudi commanding officer restricts them to the base, Rojas said, adding that the Saudi government has also pledged full cooperation. Three sailors were killed in the attack, and Alshamrani, 21, was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy. Both deputies were expected to survive.

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.

Donald Trump also indicated a review of policies governing foreign military training.

The shooting marks a setback in the kingdom's efforts to shrug off its long-standing reputation for promoting religious extremism after the September 11, 2001, attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.

"Foreign military officers, particularly those under training, are accounted for under a similar standard to US personnel under a training environment", said the official, who worked with foreign trainees.

"The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people", Trump said in a tweet.

Officials have said they're investigating whether the attack was terrorism-related. Currently, more than 850 Saudis are in the United States for various training activities. "I guess we're going to have to look into the whole procedure". They are among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries in the United States going through military training. "We'll start that immediately".

The kingdom's reputation is still damaged after the killing previous year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi intelligence officials and a forensic doctor killed and dismembered Khashoggi on 2 October 2018, as his fiancee waited outside the diplomatic mission.

He said it had been his son's dream to become a Navy pilot and he had reported to the Pensacola flight school just two weeks ago.

All three were students at Naval Aviation Schools Command.

The Navy on Saturday identified the three victims as Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, from Coffee, Alabama; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, from St. Petersburg, Florida; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, from Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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