A dozen members of Saudi Arabia’s military remain restricted to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., as federal investigators continue gathering information about last week’s mass shooting on base, Pentagon officials said on Thursday.
The gunman, Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Alshamrani, was attending flight school at NAS Pensacola when he killed three U.S. sailors on Friday and injured several others. Alshamrani was killed in the incident by local law enforcement.
The Saudi Arabian commanding officer of the Saudi students decided to restrict the students who were acquaintances of Alshamrani to base, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a Thursday press briefing. About 162 Saudi students at Pensacola are under no restrictions, but are grounded and limited to classroom instruction, USNI News understands.
“The stand-down to classroom training is restricted to the Saudi students in the country at this time,” Hoffman said.
While the dozen Saudi students are barred from leaving the base, they do have access to instruction, food, medical staff, a U.S. military imam and their commanding officer. They are not participating in operational training right now, Hoffman said.
The Navy announced a standdown for all Saudi flight students earlier this week.
“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,” the Navy said in a statement on Tuesday.
“There are approximately 175 Saudi Arabian students training at NAS Pensacola and NAS Whiting Field, about 140 in Pensacola and about 35 at Whiting Field. There are approximately 128 Saudi Arabian students training at NAS Mayport.”
Currently, more than 5,100 members of foreign militaries, representing 153 countries, are attending flight training, combat weapons systems training, infantry training, professional development courses for officers, or are students at the U.S. military’s undergraduate and graduate-level colleges, according to the State Department.
“This is considered a vital tool in our ability to, one, help our partners increase their defensive abilities; two, to help our partners increase their ability to interact with us in joint measures so that they understand our processes so that if we end up having to go to war together that we have that capability; and three, to help build up the cultural understanding of our partners,” Hoffman said.
The U.S. Department of State is in charge of issuing visas for foreign military students to attend training in the U.S. No new students have entered the U.S. since last week’s shooting. However, Hoffman said, “There is not a prohibition against that taking place.”
A new vetting process is being developed by State, with input from the Pentagon, Hoffman said. Once in place, all foreign military students attending training in the U.S. will undergo new vetting procedures.
Meanwhile, U.S. Fleet Forces Command directed all bases to increase random antiterrorism measures which include increased vehicle searches on U.S. Navy installations.