United States Attorney General William Barr has confirmed that 21 Saudi military students are being removed from a US training program and are returning home over possession of child pornography and anti-American material, he said on January 13.
Of the 21 Saudis now in the process of being removed from the United States, investigators found that 17 had shared social media posts that were either Jihadi or anti-American in nature.
About 15 individuals were found to have had contact with child pornography, Barr added. “While one of these individuals had a significant number of such images, all the rest had one or two images, in most cases posted in a chat room by some other person or received over social media,” he told reporters.
Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting
None of the accused is said to have links to the Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting on December 7, which Barr said was motivated by “jihadist ideology,” classified as an act of terrorism.
The increased scrutiny of foreign military exchange programs, especially with Saudi trainees, comes after December’s fatal shooting incident on a naval base in Florida. Around 850 Saudi trainees are currently studying alongside US military personnel under such programs.
It was reported that 21-year-old Mohammed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force and a student naval flight officer of the Naval Air Training Command (Natracom), opened fire at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola on December 6, 2019.
Three United States Navy sailors were killed by Alshamrani using a 9-millimeter Glock, purchased through a “legal loophole.”
Officials claim Alshamrani hosted a party before the shooting, where he and others viewed video clips of mass shootings. He had also reportedly criticized the United States’ support of Israel and on social media accused America of being anti-Muslim before the shooting.
Gun laws for immigrants
US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials have carried out an assessment to review a federal gun law exception that allows foreign nationals to legally purchase weapons with a valid hunting license.
“The FBI assesses non-immigrant visa holder extremists and criminal actors almost certainly are capable of exploiting a federal statutory exception that allows non-immigrant visa holders in the United States – who otherwise are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition in the United States – to legally purchase firearms, including high-capacity military-style rifles, with a valid hunting license or permit to conduct a violent attack in the homeland,” reads an FBI intelligence report of December 2019.
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