Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

Pentagon says no further threat after Saudi airman shooting in US

The review comes after Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani killed three people in a shooting on a US base

Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani’s photo on an undated military ID card. FBI via Reuters
Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani’s photo on an undated military ID card. FBI via Reuters

After a review, the US military says there is no further threat from around 850 Saudi Arabian military students studying in the United States after a December 6 shooting by an Force officer from the kingdom who killed three people at a base in Florida.

"We can report that no information indicating an immediate threat scenario was discovered," said Garry Reid, a director for defence intelligence, counter-intelligence, law enforcement and security, briefing Pentagon reporters.

The conclusion clears the way for the US military services to, at their discretion, lift a freeze on operational training that had grounded Saudi military pilots and had restricted Saudi air crews to infantry officers to classwork.

The attack was widely condemned in the kingdom and US President Donald Trump said that King Salman had reached out to him personally to express his own condolences. Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir also tweeted his sympathies.

King Salman told Mr Trump that "the perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi people, who count the American people as friends and allies", according to a statement released by the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Saudi officials also visited the air force base to meet US counterparts.

The FBI has said US investigators believe Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, acted alone at a US Navy base in Pensacola before he was fatally shot by a deputy sheriff.

A group that tracks online extremism has said Alshamrani appeared to have posted criticism of US wars in predominantly Muslim countries and quoted slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Twitter hours before the shooting.

The Pentagon said it would carry out the enhanced review of international military students for other nationalities as well, including looking at their social media. There are roughly 5,000 from 150 countries training on US bases.

A US defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the review did not speak to any information that the FBI may be gathering separately about the shooting.

So far, apart from the shooter who killed three people, the FBI investigation has not uncovered evidence that other potentially violent militants are embedded amongst Saudi military personnel now training in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

An FBI official told Reuters that the Bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and Counterterrorism division were "working tirelessly to discern if any possible ideology may have been a factor" in the Pensacola shooting, and also looking into "whether he acted alone or was part of a larger network."

But the official said that so far investigators had not "identified a credible risk to the community as a result of this investigation."

The official added that the FBI had conducted over 500 interviews with help from other government agencies.

Updated: December 20, 2019 01:03 PM

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