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Shooter at Florida naval station a Saudi national in US for aviation training

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-12-07 07:13

The main gate at Naval Air Station Pensacola is seen on Navy Boulevard in Pensacola, Florida, US March 16, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON -- The shooter who opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida early Friday morning and killed at least three people before being neutralized by police officers was a Saudi national in aviation training at the base, officials said.

Speaking at a press conference in Pensacola, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis mentioned the shooter's ties to the Saudi military.

"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. "The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. They are going to owe a debt here."

The FBI has taken over an investigation into the shooting. Several US media outlets reported investigators are looking into it to see whether it was terrorism-related.

US President Donald Trump tweeted he "just received a full briefing on the tragic shooting" at the Pensacola facility and that he has spoken to DeSantis.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time," Trump wrote. "We are continuing to monitor the situation as the investigation is ongoing."

Sheriff of Escambia County David Morgan told reporters that they received notice that there was an active shooter at 7:51 am ET.

Two deputies engaged and killed the shooter who were using a handgun inside a classroom building at the military facility, Morgan said. The two officers were also shot but are expected to recover after receiving treatment.

Eight others suffering from gunshot wounds were transported to a local hospital, where one of them died, according to officials.

"It's possible today's attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola was motivated by a personal grievance & not ideology," tweeted US Senator for Florida Marco Rubio. "But it has many of the markings of an act motivated by international terrorism."

"All key federal agencies are involved in the investigation," he said. "We will know more very soon."

Congressman Matt Gaetz, whose district includes Pensacola, tweeted he's working with several federal departments to "ensure there's extreme vetting" for those who come to receive training at US military bases.

"Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie," Sheriff Morgan told reporter.

The names of the victims will not be released until the next kin have been notified, Naval Air Station Pensacola wrote on one of its Facebook posts.

Located in Florida's northwest corner near its border with Alabama, the facility, which employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, is a major training site for the Navy and home to its aerobatic flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels.

It was the second shooting at a US military facility this week.

A shooting on Wednesday afternoon in Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii left three dead, including the gunman.

"These acts are crimes against all of us," Acting Secretary of the US Navy Thomas Modly said in a statement. "It is our solemn duty to find the causes of such tragic loss and ceaselessly work together to prevent them."

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