Was Friday morning’s shooting at NAS Pensacola an act of terrorism? Multiple news agencies say they’ve confirmed that the killer in the attack in a classroom building on the sprawling military base was a pilot with the Saudi Arabian military who was at the naval air base in Florida for training.
CNN is reporting that investigators haven’t confirmed a motivation for the attack, but are actively investigating the possibility that this was an act of terrorism.
Investigators are looking into whether the shooting was terror-related as a possible motive, but it’s still early in the investigation.CNN has reached out to the Saudi Embassy in the US and has not heard back.The shooter was killed after two deputies exchanged gunfire with him, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told reporters in a news conference.The FBI has taken over the investigation, according to an FBI spokeswoman.
At any given time the naval air station may be hosting aviation students from around the world, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents the district where NAS is located.
“We are getting reports that this shooting occurred at the schoolhouse, right in the center of the campus, where the naval pilot students come to learn about naval aviation. That’s a mission that hosts American pilots; it also hosts pilots from all over the world, who come to NAS Pensacola to harness their craft and to ensure that our allies have the capabilities to work alongside U.S. military. It appears that this shooting occurred right in the heart of that school campus,” the Congressman noted in a video posted Friday morning as news of the attack was first breaking.
While there are students from across the globe who train at NAS Pensacola, Fox News reports that the majority of those pilots are from Saudi Arabia.
NAS Pensacola is home to the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity’s International Training Center, which the Navy says was “established in 1988 to meet the aviation-specific training needs of international officers and enlisted students from allied nations.”
“Immersing international students in our U.S. Navy training and culture helps build partnership capacity for both the present and for the years ahead,” Cmdr. Bill Gibson, the center’s officer-in-charge, said in 2017. “These relationships are truly a win-win for everyone involved.”
The majority of the hundreds of students that have participated in the program, the Navy says, are from Saudi Arabia.
As of early Friday afternoon, the Saudi government had yet to issue any official statement, though we can assume that contact has already been made with the White House. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump tweeted a statement saying he’d received a full briefing, but didn’t confirm the reports that the attacker was a Saudi national.
Just received a full briefing on the tragic shooting at NAS Pensacola in Florida, and spoke to @GovRonDeSantis. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time. We are continuing to monitor the situation as the investigation is ongoing.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2019
This is the second attack to occur on a military base this week. In Hawaii, an active duty sailor opened fire on civilian workers with his service rifle, and then took his own life with his military-issued sidearm on Wednesday of this week. The Associated Press is out with a report today quoting an unnamed official who says the killer in that attack was facing non-judicial punishment for “minor misconduct”, and was also actively undergoing counseling at the time of the attack.