Tuesday, 19 May 2020

SHOCK: FBI Discovers Pensacola Mass Shooter Had Contact With Al Qaeda Before Attack

A Saudi aviation student who opened fire on Naval Air Station Pensacola last December, leaving three airmen dead, had been in contact with the international terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, before the attack, the FBI revealed Monday.
Fox News reports that the shooter, who was one of several Saudi aviation students studying alongside American airmen at the air base in Florida, was known to have expressed anti-American sentiments online, but this is, reportedly, the first concrete link investigators have found to international terror networks.
The FBI found the connection after requesting help from Apple and others to unlock the shooter’s phone. Investigators, Fox News says, eventually “broke through the encryption” and discovered that the shooter had been communicating with members of Al Qaeda.
“The FBI, following the Dec. 6 shooting, had asked Apple for help in accessing data from a pair of iPhones owned by the gunman, as investigators had been unsuccessful in unlocking the devices,” Fox News said Monday. “It is not immediately clear if Apple gave in, or if the FBI was able to find another way to search the phone’s contents.”
CNN reports that the breakthrough ended a “standoff” between Apple and the Justice Department, implying that the technology behemoth’s cooperation was, ultimately, not required. Apple would only provide the Justice Department with access to the shooter’s iCloud account and other data stored on Apple’s servers but would not break the encryption on the shooter’s phone.
“Apple has said creating special access to its devices for the government was where it would draw the line, noting in January ‘there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers,'” according to CNN.
Back in January, just after the incident, Attorney General William Barr called the shooting an act of “terrorism,” suggesting that the shooter had jihadist objectives. Barr told a press conference that the shooter was “motivated by jihadist ideology” and that “during the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on September 11 stating, ‘the countdown has begun.'”
The shooter also, just hours before the attack, posted a message on social media referencing Al Qaeda directly. As he was rampaging through the air base, he recorded a video, in which he “made statements during the attack that were critical of American servicemen overseas” according to the FBI, per CNN.
An Al Qaeda branch claimed credit for the attack, according local news in Florida, but that is not necessarily dispositive of terror connections given that international jihadists regularly take advantage of tragedies to boost their presence.
If there does prove to be a concrete connection between the Pensacola shooter and international Al Qaeda, it would mark a big milestone: the first time a jihadist has carried out a deadly attack on United States soil since September 11, 2001.

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