AG Bill Barr: Pensacola Shooter Was Motivated by Jihadist Ideology

By Melanie Arter | January 13, 2020 | 2:57pm EST
(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The Saudi national who killed three people at the Pensacola Air Base in Florida in December was motivated by jihadist ideology to carry out what is considered to be an act of terrorism, Attorney General Bill Barr announced Monday.

“The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology. During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on September 11th of this year stating, the countdown has begun,” Barr said during a press conference.

“During the Thanksgiving weekend, he then visited the 9-11 memorial in New York City. He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadi messages on social media including two hours before his attack,” he said.

The attorney general dismissed reports that aviation student Mohammed Saeed Alshamran arrived at the site on Dec. 6 accompanied by other Saudi cadets that took video during the attack.

“These reports turned out not to be accurate,” he said. “The shooter arrived by himself. The other Saudi cadets happened to be in the area, and after the attack began, they took some videos of the resulting commotion around the building.”

The cadets have fully cooperated in the investigation, Barr said, “as did all other Saudi cadets that were interviewed by the FBI at the base and in other bases around the country.” 

After he entered the building and cased the facility, he proceeded to walk around, shooting down his unarmed victims in cold blood,” the attorney general said. He said there were “many specific acts of courage” during and after the attack. He pointed to two U.S. Marines - Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Maizel and Staff Sgt. Samuel Mullens.

“They were outside the building when they heard the gun fire and although unarmed, they ran into the building to confront the shooter. Their only weapon was a fire extinguisher that they pulled off the wall as they ran toward the gun fire. Although they were unable to engage the shooter, they helped save many lives by giving CPR and other urgent medical aid to the victims,” Barr said.

He also heralded “the heroic acts of Ryan Blackwell.” 

“The shooter shot Air man Blackwell five times. Yet, he managed to jump on top of a fellow sailor to keep her from being shot. Then assisted other students and helped them escape. All while taking fire from the shooter. Ryan Blackwell's heroic act saved countless lives that day,” the attorney general said.

Barr said the Saudi kingdom has cooperated with the counter-terrorism investigation and ordered all Saudi trainees to cooperate. 

“This assistance was critical to helping the FBI determine whether anyone assisted the shooter in these attacks,” the attorney general said. “While there's no evidence of assistance or pre-knowledge of attack by other members of the Saudi military or any other foreign nationals that were training in the United States, we did learn of derogatory materials possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who were training in the United States. 

Barr said 17 of them “had social media containing some jihadi or anti-American content.”

“However, there was no evidence of any affiliation or involvement with any terrorist activity or group,” he said, adding that “15 individuals, including some of the 17 I just mentioned, so there's overlap, had some kind of contact with child pornography.”

“While one of these individuals had a significant number of such images, all the rest had one or two images in most cases posted in a chat room by some other person or received over social media,” the attorney general said.

“The relevant U.S. attorney's offices independently reviewed each of the 21 cases involving derogatory information and determined that none of them would in the normal course result in federal prosecution,” Barr said.

“However, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the royal Saudi Air Force and in the royal Navy. The 21 cadets have been disenrolled from their training curriculum in the U.S. military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia later today,” he added.


 

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