Families of Pensacola Terror Attack Victims Sue Saudi Arabia
Story Code : 918032
A 152-page complaint in federal court in Pensacola, Fla., made new accusation, saying that the shooter, Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani, executed the attack with the support of accomplices.
The accomplices included fellow Saudi air force trainees, whom he told of his plans at a dinner the night before and during a November visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York City to pay tribute to the hijackers, the plaintiffs said.
Shamrani, who was killed by responding sheriff’s deputies, worked with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] for five years to plan the December 6, 2019, attack, US authorities said in May after de-encrypting his phone.
The families also accused the Trump administration and the Saudi government of reneging on pledges of support for families.
Meanwhile, the WSJ added that a US-based attorney for the Saudi government and a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The lawsuit comes as US-Saudi relations have fallen to a new low since January, with the new Biden administration canceling arms sales, criticizing human rights abuses and the harassment of dissidents and pledging to “recalibrate” ties with the kingdom and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The families’ Pensacola lawsuit noted that Saudi authorities knew of the radicalization of Shamrani — an al-Qaeda operative who made his first contact with AQAP by at least 2015 — and of anti-American statements he shared via Twitter.
Shamrani was nevertheless one of two out of hundreds of students in his Royal Saudi Air Force Academy class awarded a scholarship to enter a joint military training program in the United States, the suit asserted.
It also added that the Saudi commanding officer on base and 11 other trainees it did not name knew that Shamrani purchased and stored a 9-millimeter handgun and ammunition on base in violation of US and Saudi policy and that Saudi officials left the commanding officer’s post unfilled from September 2019 until after the shooting.
“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 the NAS Terrorist Attack. Because they supported it,” the suit asserted.
On September 11, 2019, Shamrani posted a message on social media saying, “The countdown has begun,” and later that month sent a copy of his will to AQAP purporting to explain the coming attack, the suit added. That Thanksgiving weekend, the suit said, Shamrani and other trainees visited the memorial in New York City to those killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in which 15 of 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The suit noted that during the visit, the trainees “discussed the plans for the NAS Pensacola Terrorist Attack.” It also asserted that on December 5, the night before the attack, Shamrani hosted a dinner party for fellow trainees at which he screened videos of mass shootings and discussed his plans for the next day.
At least three trainees who attended the dinner called in sick the next morning, one of whom stood outside the building and recorded the shooting on his cellphone while two others watched from a nearby car, the suit claimed.