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Corpus Christi Shooting: Texas Naval Base Attack Was 'Terrorism Based'

2020-05-22 02:15:54

An attack by a gunman who opened fire early Thursday at a gate of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas was related to terrorism, the F.B.I. said on Thursday.

One member of the base’s security force sustained minor injuries in the shooting, and the gunman was killed, the authorities said.

The authorities did not release the gunman’s name, but officials familiar with the investigation identified him as Adam Alsahli.

“We have determined that the incident this morning at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is terrorism-related,” Leah Greeves, an F.B.I. supervisory senior resident agent in Corpus Christi, said at a news conference.

The federal, state and local authorities were continuing to investigate the situation, which was “fluid and evolving,” she said.

“We may have a potential second related person of interest at large in the community, but we would encourage the public to remain calm,” Ms. Greeves said.

Around 6:15 a.m., a man in a vehicle approached the base’s North/Ocean Drive Gate and began firing at the guard, according to Francoise Kieschnick, a spokeswoman for the base.

The guard was injured but managed to stop the gunman by activating a “final denial barrier” that stops vehicles from crossing, Ms. Kieschnick said.

Base personnel returned fire, and the gunman was “neutralized,” Ms. Kieschnick said.

The injured guard was taken to a nearby hospital, deemed in good condition and released, the base said in a statement.

“No one else was hurt thanks to the great work of our first responders,” Ms. Kieschnick said.

The base was placed on lockdown for several hours, and the North/Ocean Drive Gate remained closed until further notice, the base said.

The Justice Department confirmed on Thursday that “electronic media” had been found at the scene of the crime, leaving open the possibility that law enforcement personnel had recovered a smartphone or other device that could contain the gunman’s messages.

Accounts matching Mr. Alsahli’s profile on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, portray an individual consumed by religion, with posts citing the Quran and Islamic geopolitical issues, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a private company that monitors jihadists’ websites and postings.

While many of the postings were innocuous, some feature jihadi figures such as Ibrahim al-Rubeish, a top ideologue and spokesman for Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen and a former detainee at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, who was killed by an American drone strike in Yemen in 2015. Other posts cite the Afghan Taliban and the Syria-based division of the Turkistan Islamic Party, according to SITE.

Mr. Alsahli’s last Facebook post, on Monday, states, “All the sins of a martyr are forgiven except debt,” SITE reported.

F.B.I. Director Christopher A. Wray said on Monday that communications with Qaeda leaders found on Mr. Alshamrani’s phone showed that his attack on Naval Air Station Pensacola, which killed three sailors in December, was “the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation.”

Even though Mr. Alshamrani was thought to have operated alone, the government expelled 21 other Saudi students who were training with the American military, some of whom had links to extremist movements.

Mr. Alshamrani’s ability to train on the base with the U.S. military raises a host of thorny issues, including how the Defense Department screens potential recruits from Saudi Arabia. Attorney General William P. Barr said the screening and vetting process in Mr. Alshamrani’s case had been insufficient, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper pledged in a statement to keep up additional safeguards that the Pentagon had already installed.

After the shooting, the Defense Department ordered a stop to all international military student training at American installations. In January, Mr. Esper imposed tighter restrictions on the use of firearms and access to government facilities for international military students. He approved the continuous monitoring of international students while they are enrolled in U.S.-based training programs.

Naval Air Station Corpus Christi has been home to naval pilot training since 1941, according to its website. It houses Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and foreign student pilots.

Ms. Kieschnick, the base spokeswoman, said no Saudi nationals were training at the Corpus Christi installation. The only foreign trainees on base are two from the Netherlands and nine from Italy, she said.

Rudy Garza Jr., a City Council member in Corpus Christi, said the city manager had sent him and the rest of the Council a text informing them that the shooting was connected to terrorism.

“We’ve been relatively secure at the base,” he said. “This gives us great concern. We have to be diligent that there are bad actors out there. We need to keep our guard up all time.”

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.


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