US officials sceptical as Al Qaeda in Yemen claim Florida airbase shooting

Sources have suggested Aqap may be trying to divert attention from reports its top official in Yemen was killed in a drone strike

US Attorney General, William Barr speaks next to diplayed pictures of the shooter's cellphone at a press conference, regarding the December 2019 shooting at the Pensacola Naval air station in Florida, at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC on January 13, 2020. The United States will send 21 Saudi military trainees back to the Gulf kingdom after an investigation into the fatal shooting of three American sailors last month, the Justice Department announced Monday."The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their training curriculum in the US military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia later today," Barr said. / AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS
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Al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate has claimed responsibility for a fatal shooting in December at a US naval base in Pensacola, Florida.

An audio recording purportedly from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said "we embrace the operation of the martyr hero, the daring knight Mohammad bin Saeed Alshamrani".

The recording offered no evidence that the group was behind the attack in which Alshamrani, a Saudi citizen, killed three people.

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the FBI shows Mohammed Alshamrani. The United States is preparing to remove more than a dozen Saudi military students from a training program and return them to their home country after an investigation into a deadly shooting by Saudi aviation student Alshamrani at a Florida navy base in December 2019, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. (FBI via AP, File)

A US government source familiar with official reporting and analysis told Reuters news agency that the Trump administration did not believe Aqap's claim that the Florida shooter was acting on their behalf.

The source said that Aqap could have made the claim to divert attention after reports about the killing of its leader, Qassim Al Raymi, in a drone strike in Marib. The reports are yet to be confirmed.

One Yemeni government official confirmed that there had been a drone strike in Marib but said it was not Raymi who had been killed.

After the Pensacola attack, the US grounded all 850 Saudi pilots undergoing military training in America and restricted training to classroom-based activities while it reviewed vetting and security.

However, on January 16, the Pentagon said it would soon resume operational training.

"We're looking forward to turning that [training] back on in the coming days," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told a news briefing.

Saudi Arabia withdrew 21 cadets after the investigations showed they either had social media accounts containing extremist content or anti-American sentiment. At least one possessed child pornography.

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