US Navy pauses training of hundreds of Saudi military personnel after deadly Pensacola shooting


PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 06: A general view of the atmosphere at the Pensacola Naval Air Station main gate following a shooting on December 06, 2019 in Pensacola, Florida. The second shooting on a U.S. Naval Base in a week has left three dead plus the suspect and seven people wounded. (Photo by Josh Brasted/Getty Images)

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The US Navy on Monday paused the training of hundreds of Saudi Arabian aviation students at several training locations following a deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola which was carried out by a Saudi Air Force officer.

A “safety stand-down and operational pause commenced Monday for Saudi Arabian aviation students at NAS Pensacola and NAS Whiting Field and NAS Mayport, Florida. Classroom training is expected to resume this week for those students,” Lt. Andriana Genualdi, a spokeswoman for the US Navy told CNN in a statement Tuesday.

Genualdi said there are approximately 140 Saudi Arabian students training at Naval Air Station Pensacola and 35 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field. There are approximately 128 Saudi Arabian students training at Naval Air Station Mayport.

The Pensacola attack took place Friday when Mohammed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force and a student naval flight officer, opened fire in a classroom building on the navy base, killing three sailors. The 21-year-old, one of 852 Saudis in the US for Defense Department security cooperation training, was killed after two deputies exchanged gunfire with him.

The shooter’s membership in the Saudi armed forces has led some to criticize foreign service members participating in US-based military training programs.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, repeated his calls Monday for the administration to suspend military training programs for “foreign nationals on American soil” pending a full review.

And in the tense hours after the attack on Friday afternoon, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “There’s 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.”

President Donald Trump has spoken with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in the wake of the shooting saying the Saudi leader had told him they “are devastated,” and that the King would be involved “in taking care of the families.” The President promised that “we will get to the bottom” of what happened.

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