United States defense secretary orders security review at military bases after Pensacola shooting

Clay Curtis
December 9, 2019

Key lawmakers called Sunday for a halt to a Saudi military training program after a shooting rampage at a US naval base in which a Saudi officer killed three American sailors. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during an interview on Fox News Sunday that if was unclear if they were filming before the it began or they picked up their phones after they saw it start.

Joshua Watson, left, and Mohammed Haitham were killed in Friday's shooting at a Florida naval base. A sailor whose submarine was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, opened fire on three civilian employees on Wednesday, killing two before killing himself.

Esper said he had also asked the Pentagon to "review what our screening procedures are" before soldiers from other countries come to the USA for training programs he said were "very important to our national security".

"Foreign military officers, particularly those under training, are accounted for under a similar standard to USA personnel under a training environment", said the official, who worked with foreign trainees. More than 850 Saudis are in the U.S. for training activities. They are among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries in the US going through military training.

"I spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia".

President Donald Trump has said it is not known whether one person or a "number of people" were responsible for the attack. "But again, that's why I think we need to let the investigation play out".

But officials investigating the deadly attack have yet to determine his motive, if he acted alone and in particular, whether the incident would be considered a terrorist attack.

The shooter, who was also killed in the incident, is reported to have hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he showed videos of mass US shootings to his guests, according to media reports.

The official who spoke Saturday said one of the three students who attended the dinner party hosted by the attacker recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting was taking place.

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The official said 10 Saudi students were being held on the base Saturday while several others were unaccounted for.

Officials are combing through the shooter's belongings and social media accounts but have not confirmed a link between al-Shamrani and a Twitter account that surfaced Friday bearing his name.

The FBI has yet to announce a motive for the gunman, who was shot and killed on scene by a sheriff's deputy.

Law enforcement officials are questioning six other Saudi nationals, some of whom are also students in the Navy flight training program.

Gaetz said he told the ambassador the USA does not want the Kingdom interfering in the case, but expects its full cooperation should investigators need it.

The navy identified the three men who died and hailed them as heroes for trying to stop the gunman and flagging down first responders after being shot. "When confronted, they didn't run from danger; they ran toward it and saved lives". He was killed after two deputies exchanged gunfire with him.

Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St Petersburg, Florida, joined the navy after graduating high school past year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Family members and others identified the three dead as Joshua Kaleb Watson, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida, who joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school last year; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Military personnel are normally restricted from carrying weapons on U.S. bases unless they are part of their daily duties, a policy created to reduce the risk of suicides and accidental shootings.

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