On Friday morning, a Saudi gunman opened fire and killed three people near the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. Moments later, he was shot down by police officers. The FBI declined sharing the gunman’s identity, but a US official revealed to other sources that the gunman’s name was Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Saudi aviation student in the US Navy training program for foreign military personnel, early in his training.
By: Romy Ronen
Mohammed Saeeh Alshamrani posted a manifesto noting that America is a “nation of evil” and that we will “not be safe until we live it as reality in [Palestine], and American troops get out of our land.” In fact, in one of his most recent tweets, he retweeted, in hatred and anger, Trump’s December 2017 Jerusalem speech. The night prior to the shooting, he hosted a dinner party in which he played videos of mass shootings.
In their statement on Friday, The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, first and foremost, “its deep distress” and wishes “condolences to the victims’ families” and “the injured a speedy recovery.”
They went on to express the importance of keeping ties strong between the two nations. They made it adamantly clear that “the perpetrator of this horrific attack does not represent the Saudi people whatsoever. The American people are held in the highest regard by the Saudi people. Building upon the strong ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and in continuation of the ongoing cooperation between the two countries security agencies, the Saudi security agencies will provide full support to the US authorities to investigate the circumstances of this crime.”
President Trump indicated that he spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia thereafter and that the King “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.”
But, one may wonder, if the shooter is dead and his identity has thus been confirmed, why are there at least ten Saudis currently under investigation? US officials seem to be worried that this act may be related to a larger-scale act of terrorism, which happens to be a little too close to home. Senator Marco Rubio wrote that Friday’s events “exposed some serious flaw” in the vetting process for trainees. Senator Rick Scott wrote on Twitter that he is concerned that the shooter was a foreign national training on American soil. He is calling for “a full review of the U.S. military programs to train foreign nationals on American soil ” and continued, stating that “we shouldn’t be providing military training to people who wish us harm.”
Since the 70’s, Saudi’s have been training at US NAS bases, more so in Florida. Most of these Saudi’s are linked to Royal families in the Middle East, making it exceptionally difficult not to accept them automatically as trainees. In the past, there have been US military officials and pilots who have complained about this process, specifically that the Saudis are not trained well enough to fly.
Governor Ron DeSantis strongly communicated that “The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. They are going to owe a debt here given that this is one of their individuals.”
The question remains: how does a nation separate strong diplomatic relations from protecting its peoples, its Republic?