Over 850 Saudi Military Students Suspended From Training After Terror Attack
Washington, DC – The Pentagon has ordered over 850 Saudi military students to be confined to classroom training in the wake of the terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
Navy Commander Clay Doss said that flight and classroom training for non-Saudi students are resuming, but did not specify how long the Saudi students will be suspended from sea, land and air operational training, FOX News reported.
The decision was made as part of the Department of Defense’s immediate review of the international training taking place on military bases across the U.S.
Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said that steps are being taken to “strengthen personnel vetting,” for foreign students seeking to train within the U.S., and for procedures related to granting access to bases, Task & Purpose reported.
Norquist estimated that the review will take about 10 days to wrap up.
The Saudi government also agreed with the suspension of its military students, according to FOX News.
There are currently 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries who are participating in various Department of Defense training programs throughout the U.S., The New York Times reported.
Norquist noted that over 28,000 Saudi students have been trained by the Pentagon over the years “without serious incident,” according to Task & Purpose.
“[The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] is an essential partner, and we will continue to partner with the Kingdom to reinforce defense cooperation, increase military investment, and advance America’s interests,” Norquist’s memo read.
Three people were murdered and eight more victims were wounded when 21-year-old Saudi Arabia aviation student Mohammed Alshamrani opened fire inside a classroom at the Naval Aviation Schools Command shortly before 6:50 a.m., USA Today reported.
Alshamrani, a Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant, was armed with a 9mm Glock handgun and had multiple extra magazines.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said that deputies were dispatched to the scene at 6:51 a.m., and the first two deputies arrived within minutes, with many more who followed.
Deputies confronted the gunman inside a classroom, where a shootout ensued, Sheriff Morgan said.
Two Escambia County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) deputies were shot during the exchange of gunfire.
One deputy was struck in the knee, and the second deputy was hit in the arm.
A Navy police officer was also among the wounded, ECSO Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said on Sunday, according to CNN.
The deputies and the Navy police officer are all expected to recover.
The gunman was fatally shot by one of the wounded deputies at approximately 7:45 a.m., WEAR reported.
The three Navy sailors who were killed in the attack have been identified as Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, and Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, according to CNN.
“We work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas said during a press conference on Sunday, according to USA Today.
Ten Saudi nationals were taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the wake of the attack, the Daily Wire reported.
Some of them had attended a dinner party Alshamrani hosted just days earlier, during which attendees viewed videos of mass shootings.
At least one individual who attended the gathering later recorded the scene outside the building where the shooting took place as the attack unfolded.
President Donald Trump said he received a phone call from Saudi Arabia's King Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of the attack, according to the Washington Examiner.
"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.
"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," the President added.
He noted that King Salman “will be involved in taking care of” the families and loved ones of those wounded in the attack, The New York Times reported.