US investigators probe Saudi attacker’s motive for Florida navy base shooting

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The attacker was in aviation training at the base outside Pensacola. (AFP)
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Joshua Kaleb Watson died from his wounds after helping direct emergency services to the attacker. (Facebook)
Updated 08 December 2019

US investigators probe Saudi attacker’s motive for Florida navy base shooting

  • US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says it's too soon to label the attack as 'terrorism'
  • SITE Intelligence Group says shooter appears to have posted a justification of the attack on Twitter

LONDON: The US Defense Secretary said Saturday he was not prepared at this point to label as “terrorism” the shooting dead of three people at a US Navy base by a Saudi airman.

His comments come after a group that monitors online extremism said the shooter posted criticism of US wars hours before carrying out the attack.

“No, I can't say it's terrorism at this time,” Mark Esper said, adding he believed investigators needed to be allowed to do their work.

The US authorities have not officially named the attacker or given a motive for the shooting inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida on Friday. 

However, he has been widely identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force. He was shot and killed by police at the scene. Eight people were injured.

King Salman has led Saudi Arabia’s widespread condemnation of the shooting and offered condolences to the families of the victims.

According to SITE Intelligence Group,  Alshamrani appeared to have posted a justification of the attack in English on Twitter a few hours before it began.

He referred to US wars in the Middle East and criticized Washington’s support for Israel, SITE's analysis said. He also quoted the former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to answer questions about the account, Reuters reported.

 

 

A US official told AP that the FBI was examining social media posts and investigating whether he acted alone or was connected to any broader group.

The base outside Pensacola, near Florida's border with Alabama, is a major training site for the Navy and employs about 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website.

The attacker was in aviation training at the base, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference.

Relatives identified one of the dead as Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, who had arrived at Pensacola two weeks ago for flight training.

“Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” his brother, Adam Watson, wrote on Facebook on Friday. “After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable.”

About 100 people gathered for a vigil on Saturday, where Chip Simmons, chief deputy in the Escombia County Sheriff's office, recounted being one of the first on the scene, which he said was littered “with glass and blood, with killed and wounded lying on the floors.”

Condemnation of the attacks continued to pour in from Saudi officials and other organizations on Saturday.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) the shooter did not represent the tolerant Islamic values of the Saudi people and all Muslims who believe in “tolerance and moderation.”

The secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL) Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said that the attack was “a horrific crime” that does not have a religion or nationality.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh also said the crime did not represent the Saudi people.

*With Reuters 


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 23 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

 Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

 Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

 The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

 Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

 Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

 The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

 “Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

 “So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

 Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

 The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

 Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

 Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

 She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

 One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

 There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

 The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”