PENSACOLA, Fla., Dec 7 (Reuters) – The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that tracks online extremism.
Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have begun firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a public appearance on Saturday he was not ready to label it an act of terrorism.
A vigil was held on Saturday for those wounded and killed, among them a recent Naval Academy graduate who dreamed of being a fighter pilot and a teenage Arab American.
A sheriff’s deputy fatally shot the gunman, authorities said, ending the second deadly attack at a U.S. military base within a week. Within hours, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had called U.S. President Donald Trump to extend his condolences and pledge his kingdom’s support in the investigation.
Authorities confirmed the suspect was a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force who was on the base as part of a U.S. Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies. In an emailed statement on Saturday, the FBI named him as Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21.
The young officer was reported to have played videos of mass shootings at a dinner earlier in the week with other Saudi aviation students, according to U.S. media reports on Saturday that cited an unnamed person briefed on the investigation.
Investigators have found no sign Alshamrani had links to international terrorist groups and think he may have radicalized on his own, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified U.S. official. It said the airman first entered the United States in 2018, returned to Saudi Arabia, then re-entered the United States in February, and had reported for training at the base about three days before the attack. – READ MORE