The December shooting carried out by a Saudi aviation student at Naval Air Station Pensacola that killed three American service members was an “act of terrorism,” Attorney General William Barr said Monday.
“This was an act of terrorism,” Barr told reporters following a month long investigation from the Justice Department. “The evidence shows the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology.”
Mohammad Saeed Alshmarani, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force shot and killed three U.S. navy sailors — Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, Airman Mohammed Haitham, 19, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Walters, 21 — and wounded at least eight others at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. Alshamrani was shot and killed by responding deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
Barr added that Alshamrani posted on social media during last year’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, that “the countdown has begun” and later traveled to New York City to visit the 9/11 Memorial on Thanksgiving weekend.
“During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on social media on Sept. 11 of last year that said: ‘the countdown has begun.’ Over Thanksgiving weekend, he visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, and did so two hours before his attack at the naval base.”
The U.S. will expel more than a dozen Saudi serviceman training at military institution across the country in the wake of the Justice Department investigation. Barr said that during the course of the investigation “we did learn of derogatory material possessed by 21 Saudi trainees” including 17 individuals who had shared “jihadi or anti-American content” and 15 individuals who had contact with child pornography
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave complete and total support to our counterterrorism investigation,” Barr said. “The 21 cadets have been disenrolled from their training program and will be returning to Saudi Arabia today.”
Regarding early reporters on other Saudi cadets somehow aiding in the attack were proven to be untrue according to Barr.
“There is no evidence of assistance or preknowledge of the attack by the Saudis,” Barr said.
Florida Senator Rick Scott called for “a full review of the US military programs to train foreign nationals on American soil” in the wake of the shooting, saying, “we shouldn’t be providing military training to people who wish us harm.”