The perpetrator of a shooting at a US naval base in December had “important links” with the terror group Al-Qaeda for a long time. And this “before I even arrive in the United States,” Justice Minister Bill Barr said on Monday. The Saudi military in education had been radicalized since at least 2015, according to Washington.
Washington, author of the Pensacola, Florida shooting, had “significant ties” to the terrorist group Al Qaeda “even before he arrived in the United States,” Justice Secretary William William Barr confirmed on Monday, May 18. It was a confirmation shortly after the leak to the US press based on his telephone information.
The 21-year-old Saudi military in training in the United States, Mohammed al-Shamrani, opened fire on December 6, 2019 at Pensacola Base in Florida, killing three and eight injured, before being shot by police.
After successfully accessing data from his cell phones, investigators found that he had been radicalized since at least 2015 and that his attack was “the result of years of planning and preparation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a press conference. According to the United States, the first parts of the investigation had shown that he was “motivated by jihadist ideology”.
In early February, shooting was claimed by the Al Qaeda group on the Arabian Peninsula (Aqpa). A few days later, Washington announced it had “eliminated” its leader Qassim al-Rimi.
Access to telephone data
But nothing so far made it possible to say whether Mohammed al-Shamrani was only inspired by the group or if he had been in direct contact with its members.
US investigators, who asked Apple to access data from their phones, finally managed to recover data from at least one of the two devices on their own, according to CNN and the New York Times.
They discovered that the Saudis had exchanged with at least one Aqpa agent prior to the attack, anonymous sources told the two media.
The shooting had strained relations between Washington and Riyadh – historic allies. In an appeal to President Donald Trump, King Salman had condemned a “heinous” crime and assured the shooter did not represent his people.
Washington then announced the dismissal of 21 Saudi soldiers, of 850 or so in education in the United States, because they had published or consulted “offensive content” on social networks, “jihadists,” “anti-American,” or pedophile.
However, the FBI had found “no evidence of cooperation or prior knowledge of the attack” at Pensacola by other military personnel training in the United States.
Relations between Washington and Riyadh had already suffered a severe setback following the September 11, 2001 attacks: 15 of the 19 pilots who hijacked aircraft and killed more than 3,000 people were Saudi.