A member of the Saudi Air Force training to be a pilot opened fire in a classroom building at a US naval Station with a handgun, killing three people and injuring eight others before being shot dead by police with officials investigating whether the shooting was an act of terrorism.
The gunman in the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida on Friday was a second lieutenant in the Saudi Arabian military and was undergoing training to be a pilot.
He started his training in August 2017 as part of a three-year programme. He was taking classes in basic aviation, initial pilot training and English, a US military official told CNN.
Officials are looking into whether the shooting was terror-related as a possible motive.
The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist media, identified the shooter as Mohammed al-Shamrani, and said that prior to opening fire he condemned America as a “nation of evil” in an online manifesto on twitter, according to media reports.
“I’m against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.” “I’m not against you for just being American, I don’t hate you because your freedoms, I hate you because every day you are supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity,” he wrote.
The ABC News reported that the Twitter account that posted the manifesto — which also condemned US support for Israel and included a quote from Al-Qaeda’s deceased leader Osama bin Laden — has been suspended.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned Trump to denounce the shooting and said the perpetrator of the “heinous crime” does not represent the Saudi people, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
President Donald Trump expressed shock and grief at the incident and said he was personally monitoring the situation at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, that employs more than 16,000 military personnel and 7,400 civilians.
“King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida,” Trump said in a tweet Friday afternoon.
“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 said in his tweet.
According to local law enforcement officials, it all started around 6.50 am on Friday when reports of a gunfire at the naval base came and two county sheriff deputies rushed to the scene.
The two deputies were injured in the exchange of fire. While one received a gunshot in the arm, the other was hit in his leg. Six other people were also injured.
Police said shooting took place in a two-floor classroom building at the base.
The shooter used a Glock 9mm handgun that had been purchased locally, according to local media reports. He was killed after the two deputies exchanged gunfire with him.
The FBI is leading the investigation, as authorities did not rule out the possibility of it being a terrorist attack.
It was the second shooting at a Navy base this week. On Wednesday a US sailor killed two civilian employees and injured another before killing himself at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.
“Saddened to hear of the horrible shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola & continuing to monitor the situation. Praying for the victims & their families & we commend the first responders for their swift action in taking down the shooter & getting those on base to safety,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted.
“This is a dark day for a very great place,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B Modly described this as a “crime against all of us”.
“Our entire Navy and Marine Corps team is struck and deeply saddened by the attacks within our own naval family over the past several days, at Little Creek, Virginia last week, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Wednesday, and today in Pensacola, Florida. These acts are crimes against all of us, he said.