Three days after a Saudi air force lieutenant shot dead three people at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida, the FBI said it was working “with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism”.
The gunman who struck in a classroom on Friday morning was killed by sheriff’s deputies, two of whom were among eight people wounded in the attack. All are expected to survive.
No arrests have been made, the FBI said at a press conference on Sunday, adding that all international students at the base have been accounted for.
Earlier, the defense secretary, Mark Esper, said he had instructed the US armed forces to review both security at military bases and screening for foreign soldiers who come to the US for training.
On Fox News Sunday, Esper said he had asked top defense officials to “make sure we’re taking all necessary precautions” to make sure military installations are secure.
The shooting was the second at a US naval base in a week. A sailor whose submarine was docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, opened fire on three civilian employees on Wednesday, killing two before killing himself.
Esper also said he had asked the Pentagon to “review what our screening procedures are” before soldiers from other countries come to the US for training programs he said were “very important to our national security”.
Donald Trump also indicated a review of policies governing foreign military training. More than 850 Saudis are in the US for training activities, among more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries.
“This has been done for many decades,” Trump said on Saturday. “I guess we’re going to have to look into the whole procedure. We’ll start that immediately.”
The Saudi student hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, a US official told the Associated Press.
The official said one of the three students who attended the party recorded video outside the classroom building while the shooting took place. Two Saudi students watched from a car, the official said. Ten Saudi students were being held on the base while several others were unaccounted for, said the official.
The FBI identified the gunman as Mohammed Alshamrani, 21. On Sunday, a US official told the AP investigators believe Alshamrani visited New York City, including Rockefeller Center, days before the shooting. The FBI is working to determine the purpose of the trip and agents are attempting to locate and question anyone who may have interacted with the gunman, the official said.
Authorities believe the gunman also made social media posts about US support for Israel and alleging Americans were anti-Muslim, the official said. Investigators are continuing to examine his online profiles and social media postings.
The navy identified the three men who died and hailed them as heroes for trying to stop the gunman and flagging down first responders after being shot.
“The sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty and showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil,” Capt Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of naval air station Pensacola, said in a statement. “When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives.”
One of the victims was a 23-year-old recent graduate of the US Naval Academy who alerted first responders to where the shooter was after he had been shot several times.
“Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” his older brother, Adam Watson, wrote on Facebook. “He died a hero and we are beyond proud.”
Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St Petersburg, Florida, joined the navy after graduating high school last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Haitham’s mother, Evelyn Brady, herself a navy veteran, said the commander of her son’s school called her and told her Haitham had tried to stop the shooter. The former track and field star had been assigned to flight crew training and was looking forward to graduating from the program later this month, she said.
“He said he was going to get his flight jacket for Christmas,” she said. “Now that’s not going to happen.”
The third victim was airman apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, Georgia.