pensacola shooting
December 10, 2019

The Navy has suspended flight training for Saudi military students at three bases in Florida, following last week's shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a member of the Saudi Royal Air Force.

About 300 Saudi students will be affected, the Navy said Tuesday. While flight training is suspended, classroom instruction will continue. Three people were killed and eight injured in Friday's attack, and the gunman, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy. His motive remains unknown, and the FBI is operating on the assumption the shooting was an act of terrorism.

The FBI on Tuesday said Alshamrani obtained a state hunting license on July 11 and then legally purchased a Glock 45 9 mm handgun on July 20. Under federal law, people who come to the United States on nonimmigrant visas are banned from having a weapon or ammunition, The New York Times reports, but there are exceptions — including for those who have a valid hunting license. This "loophole" should be closed, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on Sunday, adding, "I'm a big supporter of the Second Amendment, but the Second Amendment applies so that we the American people can keep and bear arms. But it does not apply to Saudi Arabians." Catherine Garcia

December 8, 2019

The Saudi gunman who killed three people on Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida went on Twitter before the shooting and accused the United States of being anti-Muslim, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani also apparently tweeted his anger over U.S. support of Israel. The FBI confirmed it is operating on the assumption the shooting was an act of terrorism, with investigators working to determine whether Alshamrani, 21, acted alone or with others. Alshamrani was in the U.S. for flight training, and was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the attack.

The official also told AP that investigators believe Alshamrani went to New York City a few days before the shooting, and they are trying to figure out the purpose of his trip. A second U.S. official told AP on Saturday that Alshamrani hosted a dinner party prior to the attack during which he and three others watched videos of mass shootings.

Rachel J. Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Jacksonville, said a Glock 9 mm weapon that had been legally purchased in Florida was used to carry out the shooting. In response, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he is against a "federal loophole" that lets foreigners purchase guns in the United States, and while he supports the Second Amendment, it "does not apply to Saudi Arabians." Catherine Garcia

December 8, 2019

The shooting — which is now being considered an act of terrorism — that resulted in three deaths at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday has placed the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia under a microscope.

The suspected shooter, identified as Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani, was an aviation student at the base. The killing has led some people to question whether the partnership should continue, especially considering there have long been doubts about the alliance for a variety of reasons, most notably accusations of human rights abuses in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But President Trump seems committed to U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, especially as his administration remains wary of Iran's influence in the Middle East. Trump said he spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman after the shooting, who offered his condolences to family and friends of the deceased. There didn't, however, seem to be much in the way of rethinking the alliance.

That doesn't mean others haven't. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is aiming to challenge Trump as the next Democratic nominee, called the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia "unacceptable."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a supporter of Trump, said he was assured by Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud that Saudi Arabia would not interfere with the investigation into the matter, unless requested. But he still said that Friday's shooting "has to inform" the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

The FBI is keeping its investigation into the shooting that killed three people Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, tightly wrapped, but some information has made its way through.

The New York Times, for instance, reports that the suspected Saudi Arabian gunman — identified as Second Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation student at the base who served in the Saudi air force — appears to have been self-radicalized. There is no evidence he had any ties to international terrorist groups, an initial assessment from American intelligence and counterterrorism officials revealed.

A motive reportedly remains unclear right now, though the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activity, found a Twitter account that could not be independently verified, but had a name matching the suspect's. It contained posts criticizing U.S. foreign policy and quoting former al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, per the Times.

The FBI is still investigating whether the suspected gunman acted alone, as well. The Associated Press reports he had a dinner party with three other students earlier this week. They reportedly watched videos of mass shootings while there, a U.S. official told AP, and one of those students reportedly videotaped the building where the shooting was taking place, while the other two watched from a car. The official said 10 other Saudi students were being held on the base, while several others were unaccounted for.

As of now, though, there hasn't been any indication about whether the shooting was part of a larger operation, but that hasn't prevented some lawmakers from reaching their own conclusions. Tim O'Donnell

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