Deja Vu: Pensacola Shooter Was Saudi National in U.S. for 'Flight School'
Four people are dead, including the assailant, after a shooting at a U.S. Navy base in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday. According to anonymous officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the suspect was a Saudi Arabian national in the U.S. for flight school.
That sounds familiar... Nineteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian nationals, and most came to the U.S. for flight training. Three hijacker-pilots, Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah flew to south Florida for fight training about a year before the horrific September 11, 2001 attacks.
Sean Davis, co-founder of the Federalist, noted the eerie similarity. "Just spitballing here, but maybe it’s time to take a closer look at Saudi nationals hanging out in Florida for 'flight school.' Kinda maybe figured we would’ve done that 18 years ago, but apparently not," he tweeted.
U.S. officials spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, reporting that the shooting suspect was an aviation officer in the Saudi Air Force. FBI and other authorities are investigating the incident to determine if it was terror-related. Officials said the suspect was a second lieutenant attending the aviation school at the base. Military from around the globe visit the Naval Air Station in Pensacola for flight training.
The shooter opened fire in a classroom building Friday morning, killing four and injuring eight more.
DeSantis confirmed that the suspect was a Saudi national.
"Obviously, the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims," DeSantis said in a press conference. "They’re going to owe a debt here."
Saudi Arabia's King Salman contacted President Donald Trump to express his condolences and to condemn the "barbaric actions of the shooter."
"King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida," Trump tweeted. "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."
The U.S. has long supported Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, stationing troops in the country that is home to the holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina. The U.S. allies with the Saudis because the alternative to Saudi dominance in the Middle East is Iran.
Yet many Americans are angry at this relationship, considering the Saudi origins of the 9/11 hijackers and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.