World, Americas

US expels 21 Saudi cadets after Florida shooting probe

Investigators linked Saudi trainees to online child pornography, anti-American comments

James Reinl   | 13.01.2020
US expels 21 Saudi cadets after Florida shooting probe

NEW YORK

The U.S. on Monday canceled training schemes for 21 Saudi Arabian air cadets and sent them packing back to their home country, following a probe into a deadly shooting at a U.S. naval base last month.

Attorney General William Barr told reporters that the trainee pilots were heading home on the conclusion of an investigation into Saudi national Mohammed Alshamrani, a military aviation student who went on a killing spree in Pensacola, Florida, in December.

“While there was no evidence of assistance or pre-knowledge of the attack by other members of the Saudi military, or any other foreign nationals, who are training in the U.S., we did learn of derogatory material possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who are training here,” said Barr.

Of those 21 trainees, 17 had “jihadi or anti-American content” in their social media feeds, while 15 of them “had had some kind of contact with child pornography”, mostly “cases posted in a chat room by someone else or received over social media,” said Barr.

“Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their training curriculum in the U.S. military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia,” added Barr.

Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force who was a student naval flight officer at Naval Aviation Schools Command, shot and killed three sailors and injured eight others before being shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy on December 6.

“This was an act of terrorism,” said Barr.

“The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology ... He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, and did so two hours before his attack at the naval base.”

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