News ID: 262617
Published: 0124 GMT December 07, 2019

Saudi Naval trainee blamed for fatal US military base shootings

Saudi Naval trainee blamed for fatal US military base shootings
AFP

A Saudi Air Force second lieutenant is said to have killed three people and wounded eight others on Friday in an unexplained shooting rampage at a US Navy base in Florida, where he was training, US officials told Reuters.

Sheriff’s deputies responding to the early-morning incident shot and killed the Saudi lieutenant, who was armed with a handgun at the US Naval Station in Pensacola, local law enforcement officials said.

The shooting, which played out over two floors in a classroom building at the base, marked the second deadly shooting at a US military installation this week, following a similar incident at the joint Air Force and Naval base at Pearl Harbor on Wednesday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the suspect was attending training at the base as part of long-standing Navy program involving members of the Saudi military.

“The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. They are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals,” DeSantis said at a news conference.

US President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called him to offer condolences and sympathy to the victims.

“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Salman condemned the shooting in a written statement and said his government’s security services were working with US agencies to uncover the cause.

“The perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi people, who count the American people as friends and allies,” Salman said.

FBI investigators, who were leading a probe into the shooting, declined to identify the gunman and said at an evening news conference they had not established a motive for the attack.

In addition to the two people slain, two sheriff’s deputies were injured in the attack, one shot in the arm, the other in the knee, but both were expected to survive, officials said at an earlier news conference.

Eight people were taken to Baptist Hospital for treatment, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Bowers said.

In recent weeks, 18 naval aviators and two aircrew members from the Royal Saudi Naval Forces were training with the US Navy at Pensacola, according to the Navy.

The group came under a Navy program that offers training to US allies. Some 200 foreign students are in the program, said Captain Timothy Kinsella, the commander of the base.

A person familiar with the program said Saudi Air Force officers selected for military training in the United States are intensely vetted by both countries.

The Saudi personnel are “hand-picked” by their military and often come from elite families, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to speak to a reporter.

Military personnel are normally restricted from carrying weapons on US bases unless they are part of their daily duties. Nonetheless bases have seen deadly mass shootings before, including one in Ford Hood, Texas, in 2009 that left 13 dead and one at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 that killed 12.

 

   
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