The Saudi aviation student who killed three American sailors in a December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola had been in contact with Al Qaeda before carrying out the attack, law enforcement sources tell Fox News.
The communication was discovered after investigators broke through the encryption on a phone belonging to gunman Mohammed Alshamrani, the sources said Monday.
Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray are expected to address the matter at a press conference at 11 a.m. EDT.
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.
“We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of American people and prevent future attacks,” Barr said in January.
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.
Barr in January also called the attack an “act of terrorism,” noting that Alshamrani – a second lieutenant with the Royal Saudi Air Force – was “motivated by jihadist ideology.”
Senior Justice Department officials told Fox News the 21-year-old shooter left a “trail of extremism” in the days and weeks leading up to the attack.
“During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on September 11,  stating, ‘the countdown has begun,’” Barr said in January. “During the Thanksgiving weekend, he then visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
“He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, including two hours before his attack,” Barr added.
Senior law enforcement officials told Fox News the attack lasted 15 minutes and Alshamrani used a Glock 9mm that had five extended magazines. The gun, they added, was purchased legally in Florida.
A deputy from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office ultimately shot and killed Alshamrani.
NAS Pensacola is home to the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity’s International Training Center, which Navy officials said was “established in 1988 to meet the aviation-specific training needs of international officers and enlisted students from allied nations.”
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