Pentagon suspends training of Saudis for security review

Sun Online Desk

11th December, 2019 01:18:59 printer

Pentagon suspends training of Saudis for security review


The Pentagon announced Tuesday it was temporarily suspending operational training for Saudi military students in the United States following a shooting rampage last week by a Saudi air force officer, reports AFP.

Saudi Arabian military students in the United States will continue classroom instruction but operational training is halted pending a security review, senior Defense Department officials said.

Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force, opened fire in a classroom at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida on Friday, killing three American sailors and wounding eight other people before being shot dead by police.

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist ordered a review to be completed, within 10 days, of policies for screening foreign students.

The suspension of operational training applies to all members of the Saudi military currently undergoing training in the United States.

Alshamrani, who was armed with a lawfully purchased Glock 9mm handgun, is reported to have posted a manifesto on Twitter before the shooting denouncing America as "a nation of evil."

The FBI said Tuesday that Alshamrani obtained the gun through an authorized gun seller in Florida in July, through a loophole in federal gun laws that allows foreign nationals -- usually unable to purchase firearms -- to have a hunting license.

White House National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien has said the FBI investigation was ongoing but "to me, it appears to be a terrorist attack."

The shooting struck a nerve in the United States with its echoes of the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which Saudi citizens accounted for 15 of the 19 hijackers that flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the closest US allies in the Middle East, and President Donald Trump has cultivated its controversial de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman denounced the shooting as a "heinous crime" and said the gunman "does not represent the Saudi people."