The FBI found a link between the gunman in a deadly attack at a military base last December and an al-Qaeda operative, the Associated Press reports. Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray discussed developments in the shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, in which a Saudi Air Force officer killed three U.S. sailors and injured eight other people. Contacts between the shooter, Mohammed Alshamrani, and the al-Qaeda operative were discovered on the shooter’s phone. Alshamrani, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the rampage at a classroom building, was undergoing flight training at Pensacola, where members of foreign militaries receive instruction.
The FBI learned of the contacts between Alshamrani and al-Qaeda after breaking the encryption on cellphones that had previously been locked. Law enforcement officials left no doubt that Alshamrani was motivated by jihadist ideology, saying he visited a New York City memorial to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and posted anti-American and anti-Israeli messages on social media two hours before the shooting. Separately, al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, released a video claiming the attack. In January, U.S. officials announced that they were sending home 21 Saudi military students after an investigation revealed that they had had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography.”