Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility for December Pensacola Air Base Shooting
Just days after it was confirmed that a U.S. drone strike took out Qasim al-Raymi, who headed Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, the group is claiming credit for last year’s attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The attack, which occurred in early December, resulted in the deaths of three U.S. Navy sailors plus the shooter. Eight others were wounded. The shooter was a Saudi national in the U.S. for training, and other Saudi students filmed and watched the attack unfold. Some hosted a dinner party with the shooter before the attack.
By early January the Department of Justice confirmed what we all knew, that a “jihadist ideology” motivated the attack, but a particular group wasn’t held responsible at the time.
While it’s unclear why they didn’t take responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the attack, Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch is now claiming the attack.
As reported on Military.com: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, released a video claiming the attack. SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, reported the claim.
AQAP has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.
There is some evidence for, but not complete confirmation of AQAP’s claims.
The 18-minute video did not provide evidence of training the shooter, but did indicate that Alshamrani [the shooter] and AQAP were in communication, said Rita Katz, director of SITE. It was not clear when the video was recorded.
The video, which was viewed by The Associated Press, provided a will written by Alshamrani to his family in September 2019, three months prior to attack. He said he wanted to attack the U.S., citing religious reasons. However, he made no mention of al-Qaida. The video claimed that Alshamrani had been planning for years to attack a U.S. base, and had been training and “selecting” targets.
The video also includes audio from the recently incinerated al-Raymi, claiming “full responsbility” for the attack, and praising the shooter as “the hero, the courageous knight.”
While the video contains audio from al-Raymi, AQAP doesn’t state “May Allah Protect Him” in regards to him. That was always the case in other propaganda videos when his name is mentioned, which indicates that at least part of the video was assembled following his death.