FLORIDA (AP) -- Victims of a 2019 shooting at a Florida military base and their families are suing Saudi Arabia, claiming the kingdom knew the gunman had been radicalized and that it could have prevented the killings.
The suit, filed Monday, also claims that Saudi trainees knew in advance about plans for the shooting but did nothing to stop it.
The suit centers on the Dec. 6, 2019, shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in which Muhammad Saeed Alshamrani shot and killed three U.S. sailors. It comes nine months after U.S. officials revealed that Alshamrani, a Saudi Air Force officer, had communicated with Al-Qaeda operatives about planning and tactics in the weeks leading up to the attack and that he had been radicalized abroad before coming to the U.S. to participate in a military training program.
The lawsuit casts a wide net of blame beyond Alshamrani. It alleges, for instance, that Saudi Arabia knew about Alshamrani’s associations with Al-Qaeda and his radicalization and yet failed to monitor, supervise or report him. It also says the gunman told fellow Saudi trainees at a dinner party the night before the attack that he planned to carry out the shooting the following day, but instead of reporting it, they called out sick morning of the killings. One recorded the shootings while standing outside the building; two others watched from a car nearby.
"None of the Royal Saudi Air Force trainees at the scene of the attack reported Al-Shamrani’s behavior nor did they try to stop” it, the lawsuit says. "Because they supported it.”
The complaint also says Alshamrani’s Saudi trainees were aware that he had purchased and stored firearms and ammunition in his barracks, and that he had posted and shared extremist material on social media and screened videos of mass shootings before the attack.
"Al-Shamrani was a Trojan Horse sent by his country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and its proxy, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, for flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, under the auspices of a program tied to billions of dollars in military arms sales from the United States to the Kingdom,” the lawsuit states. "Little did the American people know that such an arrangement would soon devolve into a horrific, Faustian bargain.”
One month after the shooting, then-Attorney General William Barr announced that 21 Saudi trainees found to have had takfiri or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or "contact with child pornography” were being sent home.