Pensacola killer may have been radicalised two years before he reached US

New report from the Saudi government says four radical figures influenced Mohammed Al Shamrani's thinking

PENSACOLA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 06: A general view of the atmosphere at the Pensacola Naval Air Station following a shooting on December 06, 2019 in Pensacola, Florida. The second shooting on a U.S. Naval Base in a week has left three dead plus the suspect and seven people wounded.   Josh Brasted/Getty Images/AFP
Powered by automated translation

The radicalisation of a Saudi student who shot dead three US sailors at a navy base in Florida on Friday seemed to have started in 2015, two years before he arrived in America for training.

A new internal report from the Saudi government, which was obtained by The Washington Post, said a Twitter account by Mohammed Al Shamrani indicated that four "radical" religious figures appeared to have shaped his way of thinking.

The account, with more than 2,700 posts on the account, has revealed clues about what Al Shamrani's motivations may have been for the shooting in Pensacola.

It includes some anti-Americanism. His account has since been suspended.

Al Shamrani's early activity on the site, from 2012, revolved mostly around poetry and verses from the Quran, The Post reported.

But the report found that he was influenced from 2015 by Saudi nationals Abdulaziz Al Turaifi and Ibrahim Al Sakran, Kuwaiti Hakim Al Mutairi, and Jordanian Eyad Qunaibi.

Al Turaifi and Al Sakran were arrested by Saudi authorities in 2016, accused of having links to terrorist movements.

The report said Al Shamrani retweeted a post from Al Turaifi, where the cleric criticised Saudi Arabia for being an ally of the US.

The Saudi Air Force trainee, 21, was shot dead by a policeman when he opened fire in a classroom on Friday, after killing the three sailors and wounding eight people.

Saudi King Salman on Friday called US President Donald Trump to express his sorrow over the three deaths.

The attack raised concerns about vetting foreign military personnel who take part in training and exchange programmes in the US.

On Tuesday, officials from the Pentagon said it was suspending operational training for about 850 visiting Saudis.

The memo signed by US deputy defence secretary David Norquist also suspended flight training for all Saudi students in US military programmes.

It follows a decision by the US Navy to halt flight training for more than 300 Saudi students at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, and two other bases in Florida.

The moves are part of a broader review of how America handles foreign military students training there.

The FBI confirmed on Tuesday that Al Shamrani legally bought the 9mm Glock pistol he used.

Investigators are looking into whether the second lieutenant acted alone, amid reports he hosted a party earlier last week where he and others watched videos of mass shootings.

The Saudi government is working with the US and other international allies to find out what motivated the shooter and improve its vetting of military personnel and students being sent overseas.

The Pentagon announced on Tuesday it was temporarily suspending operational training for Saudi military students in the United States following a shooting rampage last week by a Saudi air force officer.

Saudi Arabian military students in the United States will continue classroom instruction but operational training is halted pending a security review, senior Defense Department officials said.