Al Qaeda Claims Pensacola Air Base Attack


John Brasted, Getty Images

The Pensacola, Florida Naval Air Base.

Brendan Guillen, Reporter

Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack on Pensacola Air Base back on December 6th, 2019 that resulted in the deaths of three sailors and a number injured.

The organization had a copy of Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani’s, the individual who conducted the attack, will and records of correspondence between himself and the organization. The announcement came from an audio recording released Sunday evening, made by the organization’s leader Qassim al-Rimi. Al-Rimi was believed to have been killed by an American drone strike last week, though officials were awaiting confirmation.

Last month, according to Attorney General P. Barr, investigators found evidence that al-Shamrani, was motivated by “jihadist ideology.” FBI Deputy Director, David Bowdich, stated that al-Shamrani was not inspired by a specific group, though held anti-American and anti-Israeli views and saw that “violence was necessary.”

Bowdich stated the FBI investigated more than 500 people and then collected 42 terabytes of digital information. However, the gunman’s iPhones proved to be the most crucial and difficult to obtain pieces of information; al-Shamrani had destroyed them during the incident. FBI agents were able to fix the phones, though had difficulty cracking the iPhones’ encryption. Apple Inc. was contacted and gave information saved on the gunman’s iCloud account, and allowed the FBI into the phones. Apple stated that it has worked with the FBI since the investigation began . “The FBI only notified us on January 6th that they needed additional assistance- a month after the attack occurred”. This statement came as a result of Barr stating that the company had not initially complied with the FBI once the investigation began.

Despite the initial lack of phone data, al-Shamrani’s social media posts gave enough information that allowed for the determination to be made. Barr noted that on September 11th, Shamrani posted a message saying “The countdown has begun.” Through social media they found that 17 Saudi trainees had shared jihadist or anti-American ideology. 21 Saudi students were dis-enrolled and have returned to Saudi Arabia, 12 of which were stationed at the Pensacola base.

It is because of the evidence collected before the audio recording was released that the Pensacola Air Base attack was deemed a terrorist incident.