Saudi suspect in US Navy base attack linked to anti-US Twitter screed

PENSACOLA, Florida: The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a US Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of US wars and quoted slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.

Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. Among those killed was a recent Naval Academy graduate who dreamed of being a fighter pilot, according to the victim's family.

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A sheriff's deputy fatally shot the gunman, authorities said, ending the second deadly attack at a US military base within a week. Within hours, Saudi Arabia's King Salman had called US President Donald Trump to extend his condolences and pledge his kingdom's support in the investigation.

Authorities confirmed the suspect was a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force who was on the base as part of a US Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies. They declined to disclose his name or identify his victims.

Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, named the shooter as Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.

Two of the eight people injured were sheriff's deputies who were shot as they responded to the scene but were expected to recover.

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One of the dead was identified by relatives as Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23. A recent graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he had arrived at Pensacola two weeks ago for flight training, his family said.

"Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own," Watson's brother, Adam Johnson, wrote on Facebook on Friday. "After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled."

OTHER SAUDIS QUESTIONED

Six other Saudi nationals were being questioned by investigators in Florida, three of whom were seen filming the incident, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified person briefed on the initial stages of the investigation.

An uncle of Alshamrani, Saad bin Hantim Alshamrani, told CNN from Saudi Arabia that his nephew was 21, and "likable and mannered towards his family and the community." He said his nephew "has his religion, his prayer, his honesty and commitments." If his nephew was guilty, then he will be "accountable before God," the uncle said.

The younger Alshamrani appeared to have posted a justification of his planned attack in English on Twitter a few hours before it began, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks Islamist extremism on the internet.

He referred to US wars in the Middle East, writing that he hated the American people for "committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity," and criticising Washington's support for Israel, SITE's analysis said. He also quoted Osama bin Laden, the Saudi mastermind of thRead More – Source