US Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that the FBI found evidence linking al Qaeda to a Saudi air force trainer who killed three US sailors in an attack late last year at a US naval base in Florida, after penetrating his mobile phone.
Law enforcement personnel killed the shooter of Thani Mohammed Saeed alShamrani, 21, during the attack on December 6, 2019.
Al-Shamrani was at the base as part of a naval training program to strengthen ties with foreign allies.
Barr told reporters in a conference call that the Ministry of Justice had succeeded in deciphering the Al-Shamrani iPhone phone after Apple, the phone maker, refused to do so.
“The information from the phone is invaluable,” said the minister.
An audio recording attributed to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, broadcast in February, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Pensacola base in Florida, but it did not provide evidence.
Before the attack, al-Shamrani criticized the American wars and published statements of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media.
“The evidence we were able to reach … shows that the Pensacola attack was a brutal climax of years of planning,” FBI director Christopher Ray said during the same call, adding that evidence shows that al-Shamrani turned to extremism in 2015.
The Ministry of Justice had previously stated that Al-Shamrani visited the memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York carried out by Saudis from Al-Qaeda and broadcast anti-American and pro-jihad messages on social media.
Barr had accused Apple earlier this year of being reluctant to assist the FBI in opening my Al-Shamrani phone, which the company categorically denied.
The minister stated that the Saudi government did not have any prior warnings of the attack.
But in January, Saudi Arabia decided to withdraw the remaining 21 of its military students from the US military training program and bring them home.