Pensacola air base shooter had accomplices, victims claim in lawsuit

The FBI has found a link between the gunman in a deadly attack at a Florida military base in December 2019 and an al-Qaida operative. Mohammed Alshamrani, a Saudi Air Force officer, shot and killed three U.S. sailors and injured eight other people at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

The Saudi Royal Air Force lieutenant who killed three U.S. servicemembers and injured 13 in a 2019 Pensacola Naval Air Station shooting had help and accomplices, a new lawsuit filed Monday claims.

According to the 152-page complaint filed in a Pensacola, Florida, federal court, the lawsuit alleges the government of Saudi Arabia facilitated the attack, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit said Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani executed the attack with the support of “accomplices.” Those included fellow Saudi Air Force trainees, whom he told of his plans at a dinner the night before and during a November 2019 visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York City to pay tribute to the hijackers, the plaintiffs allege.

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Al-Shamrani, who was killed by responding sheriff’s deputies, worked with al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula for five years to plan the Dec. 6, 2019, attack, U.S. authorities said in May after de-encrypting his phone.

The families also accused the Trump administration and Saudi government of reneging on pledges of support for families.

The shooting was an act of terrorism, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in January 2020. Barr said al-Shamrani was driven by “jihadist ideology.”

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“In the eyes of the American people, there is no greater betrayal than the realization that a purported ally is, in fact, an enemy, " the lawsuit asserts. It seeks damages for an attack the families say was caused by Saudi Arabia and its willful or grossly negligent acts in sending a terrorist operative “Trojan horse” into a U.S. program to train pilots flying billions of dollars of U.S.-sold warplanes.

U.S. servicemembers acted courageously during the attack, according to Barr. Two Marines, armed with only a fire extinguisher they had pulled off the wall, ran into the building to confront al-Shamrani after hearing gunfire. They helped save lives by performing CPR on victims. Navy Airman Ryan Blackwell was shot five times but still managed to jump atop a fellow sailor, protect her from being wounded and then help others escape.

A semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine and about 180 rounds of ammunition were found at the scene, said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. Al-Shamrani legally purchased the weapon in Florida last year under a hunting license exception, Bowdich said.

Barr also disclosed that 21 Saudis have been “disenrolled” from military training in the United States following the federal investigation. The Justice Department, Barr said, learned 17 of them had “social media containing some jihadi or anti-American content.” And 15 had “some kind of contact with child pornography.”

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