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Saudi airman may have become radicalised before U.S. Navy base attack

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Saudi airman may have become radicalised before U.S. Navy base attack

By Brad Brooks

 

2019-12-07T213819Z_1_LYNXMPEFB60JJ_RTROPTP_4_FLORIDA-SHOOTING.JPG

Flowers and a message are left on the entrance bridge after a member of the Saudi Air Force visiting the United States for military training was the suspect in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, in Pensacola, Florida, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger

 

PENSACOLA, Fla. (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, according to the victim's family.

 

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. They declined to disclose his name or identify his victims.

 

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, named the shooter as Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.

 

He 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 radicalised 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.

 

At least three of the eight people wounded were law enforcement officers shot as they responded to the attack, officials said, including one Navy police officer and two county sheriff's deputies. They were expected to recover.

 

One of the dead was identified by relatives as Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23. A recent graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he had arrived at Pensacola two weeks ago for flight training, his family said.

 

"Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own," Watson's brother, Adam Watson, wrote on Facebook on Friday. "After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable."

 

OTHER SAUDIS QUESTIONED

 

In comments to reporters at the White House on Saturday, Trump said the Saudi king and crown prince were "devastated" by what took place, and that the king "will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones."

 

"I think they're going to help out the families very greatly," Trump said.

 

Six other Saudi nationals were being questioned by investigators in Florida, three of whom were seen filming the incident, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified person briefed on the investigation.

 

An uncle of Alshamrani, Saad bin Hantim Alshamrani, told CNN from Saudi Arabia that his nephew was 21, and "likable and mannered towards his family and the community." He said his nephew "has his religion, his prayer, his honesty and commitments."

 

The younger Alshamrani appeared to have posted a justification of his planned attack in English on Twitter a few hours before it began, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online Islamist extremism.

 

He referred to U.S. wars in Muslim countries, writing that he hated the American people for "committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity," and criticizing Washington's support for Israel, SITE's analysis said. He also quoted bin Laden, the Saudi mastermind of the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, according to SITE.

 

Reuters has not verified the authenticity of the account, @M&MD_SHAMRANI, which was suspended by Twitter on Friday.

 

GLASS AND BLOOD

 

About 100 people gathered at the Olive Baptist Church for a vigil on Saturday, where Chip Simmons, chief deputy in the Escombia County Sheriff's office, recounted being one of the first on the scene, which he said was littered "with glass and blood, with killed and wounded lying on the floors."

 

"You realize in that moment that you are witnessing loss of life and hatred, but there was also heroism," Simmons said.

 

The base outside Pensacola, near Florida's border with Alabama, is a major training site for the Navy and employs about 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website.

 

On Wednesday, a U.S. sailor shot three civilians at the historic Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii, killing two of them before taking his own life.

 

Military personnel are normally restricted from carrying weapons on U.S. bases unless they are part of their daily duties, a policy designed to reduce the risk of suicides and accidental shootings.

 

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Pensacola and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay, Phil Stewart, Jan Pytalski and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-12-08
  • Haha 1

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Years ago, my elder son said of some of these people that they were "proud and stupid". Kill for honor or what?

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1 hour ago, Damrongsak said:

Years ago, my elder son said of some of these people that they were "proud and stupid". Kill for honor or what?

at least these are prerequisite characteristics to religious radicalization and violent extremism 

Edited by Opl

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Before it's all over, MBS and Trump will come to an agreement that he was radicalized and spin it so that he was also  responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

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No worries, there is a Trump travel ban. WHAT? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia isn't on it. Weren't the 9/11 killers from there?

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2 hours ago, Benmart said:

Can you please provide a researchable source for your statement?

Well, what we do know is that Trump's response to this attack is very different from his usual response. Not once did he use the word "terrorist". No talk of the need for an investigation into the roots of this attack. Instead he conveyed the Saudi King's apologies and promise of restitution. How did Trump's performance differ from what one would expect from an official spokesman for Saudi Arabia?

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generalization removed

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3 of those dirt bags recorded it?if they had prior knowledge they should be brought up on charges at the very least deported never to return and our 2 faced president sucking up to m.b.s. Is disgusting those Saudis best be careful it’s plane as day they can’t take care of themselves someone one day just might come and take their wealth they might need our help 

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