Published: Wed, December 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Navy Grounds 175 Saudi Aviation Students Following Pensacola Shooting

Navy Grounds 175 Saudi Aviation Students Following Pensacola Shooting

"A safety stand-down and operational pause commenced Monday for Saudi Arabian aviation students", said Lieutenant Andriana Genualdi, a Navy spokeswoman.

Mohammed Alshamrani, a Saudi student, opened fire inside a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday before one of the deputies killed him.

Saudi Flight student Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani shot and killed three sailors and injured eight others Friday morning.

Investigators say they are working on the assumption that it was an act of terrorism.

The order suspends training for more than 800 students.

The Defense Department also has paused all operational training for Saudi students, according to the defense official. "We share mutual security interests", Esper said over the weekend.

"These efforts will seek to more closely align IMS vetting procedures with those we apply to USA personnel", he added.

Pentagon officials also will look at the vetting processes for US military personnel, the senior defense official said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper directed a review of vetting procedures within the Defense Department for all foreign nationals who come to the United States to train, he told Fox News after the shooting.

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Esper's memo stressed the importance of the long-standing military education and training with Saudi Arabia, adding that the Defense Department has trained 28,000 Saudi students over the life of the bilateral security cooperation relationship "without serious incident".

The policy review will apply to all global military students but the suspension of operational training only applies to Saudi students, they said. USA officials told reporters on Tuesday that they aren't sure how many of those would see some type of flight or other restriction, but many will.

The suspension of operational training applies to all members of the Saudi military now undergoing training in the United States.

About 300 Saudi students will be affected, the Navy said Tuesday.

Genualdi added that while it was unclear when the Saudi students would be allowed to fly again, their classroom training was expected to resume soon.

The flight restriction put in place this week would affect 140 students at Pensacola Naval Air Station, where the shooting occurred, and 35 at nearby Whiting Field.

"We are ensuring our Saudi students have access to available resources to help them deal with these circumstances".

In the wake of the shootings, the U.S. Northern Command immediately ordered all military installations to review force protection measures and to increase "random security measures". ISIS militants had a considerable hold on territory in Iraq and Syria and threatening western targets.

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