Federal authorities announced Monday that the Saudi military trainee who killed three US military members in the Pensacola Naval Station shooting in December had been plotting the attack for months, and intended to do much more damage.
“This was an act of terrorism,” said US Attorney General William Barr. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology.”
Officials said the killer, Saudi pilot Mohammad Saed Alshamrani, who was killed by law enforcement, had been reading and posting jihadi messages on social media just two hours before his deadly rampage.
Saudi Attacker Was Ready for a Massacre
Investigators said Alshamrani intended to kill many more, citing that he had more than 180 rounds of ammunition for his handgun.
The investigation uncovered more concerns, leading to the deportation of 21 other Saudi military students. At least 17 of the trainees had jihadi literature in their possession. Others had child porn on their computers.
“I do think it’s clear that we do have to improve our vetting procedures,” said Barr.
Barr is asking Apple for help getting into the shooter’s iPhone to learn more.
Powerful Enough to Blow Up 5 Football Fields
This comes as authorities reveal that a home-grown terror attack in Jersey City also could have been much worse. In that attack on Dec. 10, two suspects opened fire on a Jewish grocery store, killing three people.
The US Attorney in New Jersey and head of the local FBI now says a powerful bomb found inside the attackers’ van could have killed or injured people up to five football fields away.
“We know now that they planned greater acts of mayhem,” said US Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Carpenito went on to say, “This was in fact a hate crime and an episode of domestic terrorism.”
NJ Detective May Have Prevented Massacre
Police say a detective killed by the suspects had spotted them in a cemetery right before the attack and may have altered their plan.
The attackers had reportedly researched a Jewish community center in nearby Bayonne, NJ as a possible target.
The attack came amidst a rash of anti-Semitic incidents in the New York area, including an assault on a Hanukkah gathering that left five people injured.
According to a recent report, anti-Semitic hate crimes in major cities in the US are expected to hit an 18-year high this year.