The FBI is reportedly searching for several Saudi servicemen, enrolled in pilot training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, who went missing after the Terror Attack in Pensacola, Florida.
Saudi Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, 21, killed three and wounded 12 others in the attack before he was shot dead by local police. We have now learned that investigators have detained 10 Saudi military students from the base, but are frantically searching for several others that are unaccounted for.
The news follows admission from law enforcement officials that the Saudi jihadist hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he and three Saudi students from the base watched videos of mass shootings. At least one of those who attended the dinner party recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting took place. The other two watched it all happen from a car parked near the building.
“This was a planned terrorist attack, and the shooter wasn’t alone,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., whose district includes Pensacola, said in a Twitter posting. Gaetz said he received a call of condolence from the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, and had “expressed in the strongest possible terms that we expect to conduct our investigation w full cooperation and no interference from the Kingdom.”
The New York Times reports that al-Shamrani and three other Saudi students traveled from Pensacola to New York to watch the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday evening.
Missing Saudis Were Being Trained by U.S. Military as Pilots
The incident is even more concerning because it echoes events from September 11, 2001, when a mostly-Saudi team of al-Qaida operatives hijacked 4 planes and orchestrated one of the deadliest terror attacks in our nation’s history . While the FBI is refusing to say whether security at our airports is being increased, it is beyond concerning that several potential terrorists with flight training are currently missing.
On Saturday, President Trump told reporters: ‘We’re finding out what took place, whether it’s one person or a number of people. We’ll get to the bottom of it very quickly.’ He has faced criticism for not calling this a terror attack and for his initial response to the shooting, which many perceived as a defense of Saudi Arabia.
‘The King said 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 people,’ Trump wrote.
On Friday evening, Florida Senator Rick Scott issued a statement calling the shooting an act of terrorism ‘whether this individual was motivated by radical Islam or was simply mentally unstable.’
I’m very concerned that the shooter in Pensacola was a foreign national training on a US base.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 6, 2019
Today, I’m calling for a full review of the US military programs to train foreign nationals on American soil. We shouldn’t be providing military training to people who wish us harm. pic.twitter.com/JkypdikYI9
Several U.S. Congress members called for the canceling or suspension of all training programs until more robust vetting procedures could be put into place.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a review of procedures for vetting foreign nationals and security on military installations but would not call the shooting a terror attack instead calling it a “tragic incident” and said the Pentagon has “taken precautions.”
He also didn’t mention the missing Saudis.
“Yesterday, I directed that we look at our security precautions across the services and all of our installations and bases and facilities to make sure that [we’ve] got the appropriate degree of security to protect our service members and their families and our communities,” Esper said.
“At the same time, I also directed that we look at our vetting procedures within DoD for all the many foreign nationals that come, for good reason, to our country to train,” he said. “We need to relook [at] all that.”