Shooter kills three at US naval base

Updated December 07, 2019

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A general view of the atmosphere at the Pensacola Naval Air Station following a shooting on December 06 in Pensacola, Florida. — AFP
A general view of the atmosphere at the Pensacola Naval Air Station following a shooting on December 06 in Pensacola, Florida. — AFP

MIAMI: A man identified by officials as a member of the Saudi air force visiting the United States for military training was the suspect in a shooting that killed four people and injured eight at a US navy base in Florida on Friday, the state governor said.

The shooter was killed by sheriff’s deputies responding to the dawn incident at Naval Air Station Pensacola. It was the second deadly shooting at a US military installation this week.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the suspect was a Saudi national attending training at the base as part of long-standing programme open to US allies. The motive for the violence was under investigation.

“There is obviously going to be a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi air force and then to be here training on our soil,” DeSantis said at a news conference. “The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. They are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.”

US President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called him to offer condolences and sympathy to the victims.

“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The suspect used a handgun in the attack, which played out over two floors in classroom building at a base whose main function is training.

Commanding officer Timothy Kinsella said the base’s security forces first responded to the shooting before outside police agencies arrived.

The facility, which is used for training and made up mostly of classrooms, was shut down until further notice.

Witnesses to the shooting described a chaotic scene as police rushed to respond.

“There’s probably been 100 or so various law enforcement vehicles” driving through opposing traffic towards the base, Jeff Bergosh, a county commissioner who is a contractor at the facility, told the Pensacola News Journal newspaper.

Federal agencies are investigating, authorities said, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Just on Wednesday, a US sailor fatally shot two people and wounded a third at the Pearl Harbour Naval Shipyard in Hawaii before taking his own life.

The Pensacola naval air station hosts 16,000 military personnel and more than 7,000 civilians, and is home to a flight demonstration squadron.

It is an early training centre for naval pilots, and is known as the “cradle of Naval aviation”.

While mass shootings in the United States are common, those at military facilities are rare.

In July 2015, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez carried out an attack at two military installations in Tennessee that killed four Marines and a sailor.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2019