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Saudi student opens fire at Florida Naval base, killing 3

Fla. (AP) — An aviation student from Saudi Arabia opened fire in a
classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing
three people in an attack the Saudi government quickly condemned and
that U.S. officials were investigating for possible links to terrorism.

The assault, which ended when a sheriff’s deputy killed the attacker, was the second fatal shooting at a U.S. Navy base this week and prompted a massive law enforcement response and base lockdown.

people were hurt in the attack, including the two sheriff’s deputies
who were the first to respond, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan
said. One of the deputies was shot in the arm and the other in the knee,
and both were expected to recover, he said.

The shooter was a
member of the Saudi military who was in aviation training at the base,
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. DeSantis spokesman
Helen Ferre later said the governor learned about the shooter’s identity
from briefings with FBI and military officials.

A U.S. official
who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified
the shooter as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. The official wasn’t authorized
to discuss the matter publicly. The official also said the FBI is
examining social media posts and investigating whether he acted alone or
was connected to any broader group.

Earlier Friday, two U.S.
officials identified the student as a second lieutenant in the Saudi Air
Force, and said authorities were investigating whether the attack was
terrorism-related. They spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose
information that had not yet been made public.

President Donald
Trump declined to say whether the shooting was terrorism-related. Trump
tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims and noted that he
had received a phone call from Saudi King Salman.

He said the
king told him that “the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric
actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form
represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American

The Saudi government offered condolences to the victims
and their families and said it would provide “full support” to U.S.
authorities investigating the shooting.

“The Ministry of Foreign
Affairs affirms that the perpetrator of this horrific attack does not
represent the Saudi people whatsoever,” the government said in a
statement. “The American people are held in the highest regard by the
Saudi people.”

Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman noted on
Twitter that he and many Saudi military personnel have trained on U.S.
military bases and gone on to fight ‘’against terrorism and other
threats’’ alongside American forces. “Today’s tragic event is strongly
condemned by everyone in Saudi Arabia,’’ he said.

DeSantis said Saudi Arabia needed to be held to account for the attack.

the government … needs to make things better for these victims,” he
said. “I think they’re going to owe a debt here, given that this was one
of their individuals.”

A national security expert from the Heritage Foundation warned against making an immediate link to terrorism.

there is some connection to terrorism, well, then, that’s that,”
Charles “Cully” Stimson said. “But let’s not assume that because he was a
Saudi national in their air force and he murdered our people, that he
is a terrorist.”

Stimson said it was also possible that the
shooter was “a disgruntled evil individual who was mad because he wasn’t
going to get his pilot wings, or he wasn’t getting the qualification
ratings that he wanted, or he had a beef with somebody, or there was a
girlfriend involved who slighted him.”

Florida U.S. Sen. Rick
Scott issued a scathing statement calling the shooting an act of
terrorism “whether this individual was motivated by radical Islam or was
simply mentally unstable.”

Scott added that it was “clear that we
need to take steps to ensure that any and all foreign nationals are
scrutinized and vetted extensively before being embedded with our
American men and women in uniform.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark
Esper said in a statement Friday that he was “considering several steps
to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of
our service members and their families.” He did not elaborate.

U.S. has long had a robust training program for Saudis, providing
assistance in the U.S. and in the kingdom. The shooting, however, shined
a spotlight on the two countries’ sometimes rocky relationship.

kingdom is still trying to recover from the killing last year of
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in
Istanbul. Saudi intelligence officials and a forensic doctor killed and
dismembered Khashoggi on Oct. 2, 2018, just as his fiancée waited
outside the diplomatic mission.

One of the Navy’s most historic
and storied bases, Naval Air Station Pensacola sprawls along the
waterfront southwest of the city’s downtown and dominates the economy of
the surrounding area.

Part of the base resembles a college
campus, with buildings where 60,000 members of the Navy, Marines, Air
Force and Coast Guard train each year in multiple fields of aviation. A
couple hundred students from countries outside the U.S. are also
enrolled in training, said Base commander Capt. Tim Kinsella.

base is also home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, and
includes the National Naval Aviation Museum, a popular regional tourist

Lucy Samford, 31, said her husband, a Navy reservist
and civilian worker on the base, was about 500 yards (0.46 kilometers)
from where the shooting happened. She said she got a call from him a
little after 7 a.m. and “one of the first things out of his mouth was,
‘I love you. Tell the kids I love them. I just want you to know there’s
an active shooter on base.’”

Her husband, whom she declined to identify, later told her he was OK.

of the shooting took place in one classroom and the shooter used a
handgun, authorities said. Weapons are not allowed on the base, which
Kinsella said would remain closed until further notice.

shooting is the second at a U.S. naval base this week. A sailor whose
submarine was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, opened fire on three
civilian employees Wednesday, killing two before taking his own life.

The entrance to the Naval Air Base Station is shown Jan. 29, 2016, in Pensacola, Fla. (AP Photo/Melissa Nelson, File)


Press reporters Lolita Baldor, Ben Fox and Mike Balsamo in Washington;
Jon Gambrell in Dubai; Tamara Lush in Tampa, Florida, and Freida Frisaro
in Miami contributed to this report.