Officials say training for 852 Saudis suspended pending review of vetting procedures. Three people were killed in a shooting spree at a US Navy base in Florida last week but Trump says incident will not impact ties.
US military officials have suspended flight training for Saudi military officers after a deadly shooting by a Saudi gunman at a US Navy base in Florida last week.
Investigators believe Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, who was 21, acted alone during the attack in Pensacola, which killed three people and wounded ten others before being shot dead himself.
While an exact motive has not been confirmed, officials are working on the presumption that the killings had a terrorist motivation.
US officials have also detained 10 Saudi citizens for questioning but there is no confirmation whether any of these played any role in the attack.
In response to the attack, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said operational training for 852 Saudi students will be suspended pending a review by the US Department of Defense. The review could take up to ten days.
“Given the traumatic events, we feel it best to keep our Royal Saudi Air Force students off the flying schedule for a short time,” a US air force spokesperson said, according to the military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper.
“We are ensuring our Saudi students have access to available resources to help them deal with the circumstances. The safety and well-being of all our aircrew, including our international students, is a top priority.”
The Saudi Arabian government has condemned the shooting by its citizen and expressed sympathy for its victims.
“We express our deep sorrow and grief over the shooting incident by a Saudi student in Florida state, resulted in a number of deaths and injuries,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Saudi King Salman has also stressed to US President Donald Trump that the attack was not indicative of how Saudi felt towards the US.
Despite recent strains in ties between Saudi Arabia and the US, over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen, Washington has maintained close military cooperation with Riyadh. Trump said planned troop deployments to Saudi Arabia would not be affected by the attack.
Riyadh is one of the biggest purchasers of US arms, and each year thousands of Saudi military personnel receive training in the US.
According to the Washington Post, 5,500 visas were issued by the US State Department for Saudis to undergo training so far in 2019.