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National Security & Defense

Barr Calls Pensacola Naval Base Shooting ‘an Act of Terrorism’

Attorney General William Barr speaks at an event in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2019. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

Attorney general William Barr confirmed Monday that the December shooting at Pensacola naval base by a Saudi national was an act of terror, and announced that 21 Saudi military students would be expelled from the U.S.

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

On December 6, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, opened fire and killed three people before he was killed by police. Following the shooting, the Navy suspended flight instruction for all Saudi students at the base pending the results of an investigation.

Barr confirmed early reports that suggested Alshamrani had left a string of anti-American social media posts ahead of the shooting, and echoed famed Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden on Twitter.

Barr also substantiated a CNN report from earlier Monday that students to be expelled did not aide Alshamrani in the attack, but had possible connections to extremist groups or were suspected of contact with child pornography.

“The relevant U.S. Attorneys 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’s statement reads. The attorney general said the decision to remove the cadets was made in consultation with Saudi Arabia, which Barr thanked for its “cooperation in this case.”

Barr closed by making a point of calling on Apple to help in unlocking two iPhones that the shooter possessed.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once they have obtained a court order based on probable cause,” Barr said. “We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of Americans and prevent future attacks.”

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