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