The Saudi military student who killed three people and injured eight others in a shooting at a Florida naval base on Friday held a dinner party earlier in the week to watch videos of mass shootings along with three other people, reports the Associated Press. One of the three guests at this macabre dinner party videotaped outside the building where Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday. Two other Saudi students reportedly watched from the car. A total of 10 Saudi students were being held on Saturday at the base.
For now officials believe that Alshamrani, who was training to become a pilot, did not have any ties to international terrorist groups “and appears to have self-radicalized,” reports the New York Times, which sources an “initial assessment from American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.” Alshamrani, who was killed by a police officer, initially entered the United States in 2018 but then left and returned in February 2019. He reported for his training two days before the shooting. What Alshamrani was doing between February and early December remains a mystery.
The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the activity of Islamist extremists online, located a Twitter account that matched the name of the gunman in which he appeared to post justification for the attack a few hours before it began. The account called the United States a “nation of evil” and said he hated Americans for “committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity.” The account also criticized U.S. support for Israel and quoted Osama bin Laden. The account, @M&MD_SHAMRANI, was suspended by Twitter on Friday.
Family members identified one of the victims as Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. “Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” Adam Watson wrote on Facebook about his youngest brother. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.” Two of the eight people who were injured in the attack were law enforcement officers, one of whom remained in the hospital Saturday.
Even as officials say they continue to investigate any possible ties to terrorist organizations, some lawmakers say that the evidence is clear. Florida Sen. Rick Scott, for example, called the shooting “an act of terrorism” regardless of “whether this individual was motivated by radical Islam or was simply mentally unstable.” Scott also called for a “full review” of all military programs that train foreigners. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Pensacola, agreed with Scott, writing on Twitter that “this was a planned terrorist attack & the shooter wasn’t alone.”
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