Twenty-One Saudi Cadets Sent Home From U.S. After Deadly Attack

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(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia is removing 21 cadets from military training in the U.S. after an FBI investigation into the shooting rampage that killed three sailors last month at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, Attorney General William Barr said.

Barr said Monday that investigators found 17 of the cadets “had social media containing some jihadi or anti-American content” but that “there was no evidence of any affiliation or involvement with any terrorist activity or group.”

The attorney general announced findings of an extensive FBI investigation into the shooting attack by Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force.

“This was an act of terrorism,” Barr said at a press conference in Washington on Monday. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivate by jihadist ideology.”

Investigators didn’t find evidence that other members of the Saudi military or any foreign nationals in the U.S. assisted in the Pensacola attack or had advance knowledge of it, Barr said.

Vetting Questioned

But the attack raised questions about the adequacy of screening for foreign trainees, and Barr said vetting is being improved for military trainees from all countries.

President Donald Trump has made the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia a centerpiece of his foreign policy, but critics of the kingdom have long faulted its past alliance with a hard-line Sunni branch of Islam. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 were Saudis.

Barr said Saudi Arabia “gave complete and total support” to the investigation into the Pensacola killings and ordered all of its trainees to cooperate.

In addition to jihadist content, Barr said 15 of the trainees “had some kind of contact with child pornography.”

“While one of these individuals had a significant number of such images, all the rest had one or two images, in most cases posted in a chat room by someone else or received over social media,” Barr said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also is pressing Apple Inc. to help access data on iPhones that belonged to Alshamrani. In a continuation of a running fight between the Justice Department and Apple, Barr said the company hasn’t given investigators assistance they need.

Barr was referring specifically to help accessing data on the phones, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “They have yet to tell us whether they have the ability to get into the phones themselves,” Kupec said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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