US to expel a dozen Saudi trainees after base attack probe

Clay Curtis
January 13, 2020

Traffic on and off base is restricted after a member of the Saudi Air Force visiting the United States for military training was the suspect in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, in Pensacola, Florida, U.S. December 6, 2019.

The United States is planning to expel more than a dozen members of Saudi Arabia's military who are training at USA military installations, multiple sources told CNN.

The dozen Saudis set to be expelled from the US are not accused of aiding the 21-year-old Saudi gunman who carried out the attack, according to CNN, which first reported Saturday night that the Saudi servicemen would be removed from the country.

Investigators are expected to rule the Pensacola base shooting terrorism, CNN reported. The FBI and the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A number are also accused of possessing child pornography, according to a defense official and the person familiar with the situation.

In mid-December the Pentagon said it had conducted background checks on all Saudi military personnel now training in the United States and found no "immediate threat scenario". The planned expulsion of the Saudi trainees was first reported by CNN.

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien told "Fox News Sunday" the shooting "showed that there had been errors in the way that we vetted".

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The FBI, Justice Department and National Security Council declined to comment. He is said to have become angered when an instructor at Pensacola referred to him as "Porn Stash", comparing his mustache to that of a stereotype of an actor in pornography films, The New York Times reported.

A number of Saudi students at the Pensacola base had been confined to quarters while the FBI investigated the shooting as a terror attack, CNN said.

According to the Washington Post, the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked Apple to help access Alshamrani's two iPhones, but the company is resisting governmental requests to alter encryption.

Apple has previously resisted efforts by government authorities to access phone customers' data, citing a company commitment to its customers' privacy.

In December, a Saudi aviation student opened fire in a classroom of the naval base, leaving three young sailors dead and wounding eight others.

"We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations", the Apple statement said.

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